Retreating Futures

In the cold heart of the Alps,
silent sentinels
unfurl their future
in broken
frozen layers –
their icy tongues
in loss.
Each glacier
a story of time,
etched in crystal
and snow
beneath the shadows
of a shifting world.
Uncovered prophecies
echo through
valleys –
rivers of ice
flowing towards
As every fading peak
hums their farewell
in to the steady
face of time.

The Aletsch glacier in 2009, in Switzerland (Image Credit: UNIL – Guillaume Jouvet).

This poem is inspired by recent research, which has found that Alpine glaciers will lose at least a third of their volume by 2050.

Understanding how glaciers will change in the next few decades is a complex but vital task. This complexity comes from the challenges in setting up scientific models and integrating various types of data. Despite these challenges, it’s essential to study glaciers over short periods, like the next 50 years, because changes in glaciers can significantly affect water supply, natural disasters, and the environment. Recent research has made progress in this area by using new methods and data from satellites. These advancements help improve the way these models are started, or initialised, making predictions about glacier changes more reliable.

This research specifically focuses on the glaciers of the European Alps, aiming to predict their changes up to the year 2050, under the current climate conditions. The method used in this study is innovative, employing advanced machine learning techniques and leveraging a vast array of satellite data. This approach has allowed the researchers to set up their glacier model more effectively, leading to more accurate predictions. The findings are significant: they estimate that, even without further climate change, about a third of the ice in the European Alps will be lost by 2050. This loss is not just a number; it means that even the largest glaciers are expected to retreat by several kilometres. The study highlights the critical role of precise modelling in understanding glacier behaviour and stresses the importance of these predictions for future planning and environmental conservation.

6 thoughts on “Retreating Futures”

  1. Sobering thoughts Sam, – and pertinent,- for surely our future retreats and diminishes every day.
    Your poem is moving and sad.

  2. I have been in Switzerland for 30 years now and have seen whole glaciers vanish.
    At the top of the Schilthorn there was a small glacier (you can see it in a James Bond film!) which I had walked and skied over in the 90’s.

    It has now gone.


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