A new study that has used satellite images to study changes to snow cover in the Alps has reported a “rapid greening” since the 1980s.
Findings of the study, the results of which have been published in the journal Science, have confirmed all previous studies that have shown retreating snowlines, shorter winters, shrinking glaciers, less reliable snow cover and flora and fauna moving to higher elevations for more of the year than they previously could.
The changes are so clear they’re visible on the satellite images from space. They’re in line with similar changes to high mountains around the planet.
The study found that more than three-quarters of the Alps, above the tree line, have experienced a “greening” over the last 40 years. Although more vegetation can be good for soaking up CO2, less reflective white snow means more heat is absorbed speeding up warming further. Unfortunately the negatives outweigh the positives.
“The scale of the change has turned out to be absolutely massive in the Alps,” lead study author Sabine Rumpf, an assistant professor at the University of Basel, said in a statement.