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Melting Swiss glaciers reveal ancient hiking path not seen for over 2,000 years

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Glaciologist Mauro Fischer stands at the newly uncovered path between the Scex-Rouge and the Zanfleuron Glaciers.
Glaciologist Mauro Fischer stands at the newly uncovered path between the Scex-Rouge and the Zanfleuron Glaciers.   -   Copyright  Reuters
By Hannah Brown  with Reuters

Following the hottest summer in Europe on record, a path usually covered by ice and snow has been uncovered for the first time in at least 2,000 years.

The ski resort, Glacier 3000, in the Les Diablerets area of western Switzerland said this year's ice melt was around three times the 10-year average.

"Ten years ago I measured about 15 metres of ice. So more than 15 metres of ice and snow have melted," says Mauro Fischer, a glaciologist at the University of Bern's Institute of Geography.

Bare rock can now be seen between the Scex Rouge and the Zanfleuron glaciers at an altitude of 2,800 metres, and the pass is expected to be completely exposed by the end of this month.

Why is the ice melting so dramatically in the Alps?

Since last winter, which brought relatively little snowfall, the Alps have sweltered through two big early summer heatwaves. Not only did a hot, dry summer melt snow and ice but the lack of rain means there’s very little to replenish it.

"What we saw this year and this summer is just extraordinary and it's really beyond everything we have ever measured so far," Fischer adds, referring to the speed at which the ice has melted.

The Alps' glaciers are now on track for their biggest mass losses in at least 60 years of record-keeping, data shows.

Watch the video above to learn more about these retreating glaciers.

Video editor • Hannah Brown