The Shrinking Glaciers Project

As an NGO whose aim is to protect and preserve the remaining pristine wilderness areas in mountain regions and, more in general, the natural and cultural heritage of mountain areas, Mountain Wilderness International, is planning to organise exchange and networking among citizens, scientists, researchers, academia, schools, photographers, filmmakers, directors, mountain guides, mountaineers etc. in order to raise awareness about climate change and people’s ecological footprint.

We are aiming to partner up with other organisations, initiatives and bodies.

The project envisages the setting up of a platform for information and data collection and exchange, along with the organisation of actions, rallies and events either at international level or through our national chapters. We strive to reach the broadest possible public.

All event times are displayed based on Europe/Paris timezone.

Glacier of the Month

In this section we will present examples of both famous and less-known glaciers that have changed over time, illustrating some of their characteristics and comparing old and recent images.

  • May: Hintereisferner Glacier

    The Weißkugel/Palla Bianca, 3,738 m asl, is located at the border between South Tyrol and North Tyrol and therefore between Italy and Austria. It is the third highest mountain in Austria after Großglockner and Wildspitze and the second highest in the Ötztal Alps/Alpi Venoste. Thanks to its central location, at the intersection of the Schnalskamm and Weißkamm ridges, the summit offers an impressive view, stretching from the Bernese Alps to the Bernina Group and the Dolomites to the Schober Group.

    In 2022, the Hintereisferner glacier lost 5% of its volume – in just one year. This corresponds to almost 20 million m3 of water, about as much as the city of Innsbruck consumes in drinking water in 20 months. In previous years, the average volume loss was 1-2% per year.

    Studies show that the climate crisis hits hardest at high altitudes. In the Alps temperatures have risen by 2°C degrees over the course of the 20th Century, already exceeding the 1.5°C Paris Agreement limit. This impacts not only on glaciers, with ice melting and permafrost thawing, and the resulting mudslides and avalanches, but the entire ecosystem. To survive hotter conditions, many species are forced to seek cooler higher mountain regions.

  • April: Adamello Glacier

    With a surface area of 17 km2 and an estimated volume of 2 km3, the Adamello Glacier, located on the border of the regions Lombardy and Trentino, is the biggest of its kind in the Italian Alps. It comprises six units, i.e. Pian di Neve Plateau, Miller Superiore, Salarno, Adamé, Corno di Salarno, Mandrone, which together represent 1/4 of Lombardy’s glacier area and extends several hundred meters in altitude (2530 m – 3440 m a.s.l.) with an estimated maximum ice thickness of 260 m.

    In recent years it has lost much of its area and ice mass due to increasing air temperatures, surface albedo feedback loops and a decrease in snowfall that could slow down its melting. Snow melt onset has shifted from mid-May to mid-April and no ice accumulation has been recorded in the last two decades. Since the Little Ice Age (14th – 19th century), the retreat of the Adamello glacier ice sheet is estimated to be 2.1 km in length and 900 m in height.

    The comparative pictures show the glacier in August 1891/2020 and are courtesy of the On the Trail of the Glaciers project, promoted by the non-profit association Macromicro.

    Comparison of the Adamello Glacier between 1891 and 2020
    Glaciers are shrinking in size and mass worldwide. This is a story about one of these glaciers: the Adamello Glacier in the Italian Alps. It explores an intimate visit to this ice giant and reflects on its fate of melting and contamination. While doing so, it also contemplates on how we as a human community may change our relation to the glaciers of this world and what it would mean if we gave them a space in our hearts in addition to our minds.
    This project was realized as part of the Master’s Degree of Environmental Humanities at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice.
    Click on the link below to read “On the Death of a Glacier”
    Author: Tim Jonay Gutsche

  • March: Rhône Glacier

    The Rhône Glacier, which extends from 2197 to 3600 m a.s.l., is located in the Valais, a canton in southern Switzerland, near the Italian border. The glacier has an average width of around 2 km and covers an area of approximately 17 km2. It is the largest glacier in the Urner Alps and the source of the Rhône river, which flows to the Mediterranean Sea.

    In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the glacier was a major tourist attraction due to its tongue, which back then reached far down into the valley at Gletsch. The glacier is rapidly shrinking and is now only the fifth largest glacier in Switzerland.

    In recent decades, the glacier has lost a considerable amount of its mass due to climate change. Its surface is dominated by large crevasses and ice caves. The melting of the glacier ice and the change in runoff regimes are causing serious geo-hydrological problems.

    We owe these wonderful images to Hugues Thiebault, member of Mountain Wilderness France, and to his great-grandfather Emmanuel Bigeard, moved by a passion for the mountains that has been passed down through the centuries.