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How climate change could lead to more grim discoveries among Europe’s peaks

How climate change could lead to more grim discoveries among Europe’s peaks
By Chris Harris
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There have been three finds of frozen remains in the last month alone.


Climate change means increasing numbers of missing people are expected to be found among Europe’s melting peaks, it’s been claimed.

Global warming and its subsequent hotter-than-normal summers is seeing glaciers recede, opening the door to more discoveries of human remains, an expert has told Euronews.

Two climbers alerted Swiss police last week after spotting a hand and two shoes on the Hohlaub glacier.

Rescuers later freed a mummified body that police say is likely to be a German walker, born in 1943, who went missing on a hike in August 1987.

A week earlier the bodies of a Swiss couple were discovered, 75 years since they were last seen taking their cattle to high ground.

It comes after the remains of a victim of an Air India crash more than 50 years ago was discovered on Mount Blanc in the French Alps.

Hubertus Fischer, a glaciologist at the University of Bern’s Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, said the discoveries had not been caused by one hot summer, but rather the long-term global warming that has seen glaciers recede.

He told Euronews: “In principle any object deposited on the surface of a glacier and buried by snowfall is prone to reappear after some time due to glacier flow, when snow falling in the accumulation area reappears as glacier ice in the ablation area.

“However, soft tissue object such as human bodies will be largely destroyed by the strong deformation of the ice during its flow history.

“So the chance to find a well-preserved body or at least pieces of it are much higher during times of climate change, where ice recedes.

“In this case, the body is simply released by the melting of the glacier ice around it before the glacier flow is able to destroy it.

“So I would expect that the fast receding glacier tongues in the European Alps will increasingly release objects and artifacts in the future.

“A single hot summer of course leads to higher melting in the ablation zone than usual, but it is the continuously warmer summers related to anthropogenic climate change, that lead to the net shrinking of the glaciers.”

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