Europe’s fast diminishing glaciers are likely to suffer from an extreme heat wave that is just beginning to impact the continent as warm air moves north from Africa.
It’s likely that a number of areas will see June temperatures rise above 40 degrees Celcius by Thursday, in what could be the hottest few days in Italy for a decade and in France since 2003. Parts of Switzerland are also expected to see record high temperatures.
In the mountains it will be cooler, but still hot. Glacier snow fields are likely to stay above freezing overnight and temperatures could get as high as +20C at 3,000 metres by mid-afternoon.
Fortunately most of Europe’s glaciers have relatively thick snow accumulations from last winter, followed by a cool and sometimes snowy spring so there is a protective layer of several metres of snow above the glacial ice, but with temperatures likely to remain in double figures until next week and the hottest months of the year still ahead the cover may not last through to the autumn when temperatures should start to drop again on all of them. Some have additional are protection with artificial coverings to reflect the heat.
Currently seven Alpine glaciers are open for snowsports including Tignes and Les 2 Alpes which opened for their summer ski seasons last weekend along with Austria’s Molltal, with several more (Cervinia and the Kitzsteinhorn) due to join them next weekend. Most open around 7am for skiers and boarders and the ski day is over by noon when the snow becomes too slushy.