Alps turning green, vanishing snow cover visible from space

Climate change has had a global impact and the consequences are visible on the snow-covered peaks of the Alps. The warming of the planet has triggered a vicious circle that could impact millions in Europe.

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Alps turning green, vanishing snow cover visible from space- BPN TODAY

As the world gets hotter and extreme events become more intense and frequent, the consequences are being seen on the far frontiers of the planets. The Alps mountain ranges in Europe are witnessing a massive overhaul as its snow-covered peaks are becoming greener.

Researchers found that global warming has had a significant impact on the Alpine region similar to the one being noticed in the Arctic. Using satellite data, researchers found that the tree line has increased in nearly 80 per cent of the Alps, and the snow caps are decreasing, although so far only slightly.

The findings of the research published in the journal Science state that the mountains are experiencing more dramatic warming than at lower elevations, with increasing snowmelt and changing patterns of snowfall. They examined how the past four decades of climate change have influenced snow cover and vegetation productivity in the European Alps.

The team, which had researchers from the University of Lausanne and the University of Basel found that the reduction in snow cover is visible from space as triggered by the melting of glaciers. They studied snow cover and vegetation using high-resolution satellite data from 1984 to 2021.

During the period, plant biomass above the tree line increased in more than 77 per cent of the observed area. This phenomenon of “greening” due to climate change is already well documented in the Arctic. “The scale of the change has turned out to be absolutely massive in the Alps. Alpine plants are adapted to harsh conditions, but they’re not very competitive. The unique biodiversity of the Alps is therefore under considerable pressure,” Sabine Rumpf, lead author of the study said in a statement.

While the extent of snow cover above the tree line has only changed slightly since 1984, researchers excluded regions below 1.700 meters, glaciers, and forests.

“Vegetation productivity has increased across over two-thirds of the area above the tree line, with potential ecological and climate impacts. Feedback between snow and vegetation will likely lead to even more pronounced changes in the future,” researchers said in the paper.

Scientists fear that As global warming continues, the Alps will turn more and more from white to green, creating a vicious circle. Warming also causes further melting of glaciers and the thawing of permafrost, which may lead to more landslides, rockfalls, and mudflows.

“Greener mountains reflect less sunlight and therefore lead to further warming and, in turn, to further shrinkage of reflective snow cover,” says Rumpf.

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