The glaciers of the Pyrenees, the southernmost in Europe, are likely to turn into ice patches in the next two decades due to climate change.
On Friday, they presented the results of a study published in Geophysical Research Letters, which showed that in the Pyrenees since 2011, three glaciers have disappeared or turned into stagnant ice bands, and in 17 of the two dozen, the average loss of ice thickness was 6.3 meters.
Their mass has also declined by more than a fifth, or 23 percent, on average, in nearly a decade. Spanish scientists blamed climate change and, in particular, an overall temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius in the Iberian region since the 19th century.
“What we are seeing here is a preliminary warning of what might happen in other mountains, such as the Alps. Their glaciers have much more mass and integrity, but we are pointing the way,” said Jesus Revuelta, one of the study’s authors.
The researchers used satellite images and high-resolution images taken during research flights in 2011 to map the evolution of the ice mass, comparing it with data from field visits and three-dimensional models of mountain ranges created last summer using drones.
Compared to other existing studies of past ice loss, the IPE study also found that the annual rate of ice mass loss has not slowed since the 1980s.
“We can say with certainty that Pyrenean glaciers are in extreme danger and could disappear or become residual ice patches in about two decades,” the scientists wrote.
The Mediterranean basin is identified by UN experts as a “climate change hotspot” that could experience devastating heat waves, water shortages, and loss of biodiversity, among other things.