Thursday, October 04, 2007

Hike to the Melting Glacier

Memories and anecdotes are unreliable as evidence. Nevertheless I've lived in this neighborhood for almost 20 years and can't recall a year in which we hadn't turned the heat on at least once by the first week of October. This year we haven't though. We haven't had a frost either and tomatoes are still ripening in the garden.

One of the great luxuries of my life is the trip to Switzerland we've taken in each of the last several Februarys, to ski in the Engadine. The overnight flight is brutal and by the time we get off, gather our luggage, buy train tickets, hop the commuter train to Zurich Hauptbahnhof, the regular train to Landquart and then finally the Rhaetia Bahn into the Engadine, I'm ready to sleep in my seat.

It's a good opportunity to do so because you get a few minutes to settle in and then the tracks duck into a long tunnel and travel through the dark for 15 minutes. On the other end, you're deep in the mountains, near Klosters. It's a scene of great beauty, Alpine meadows rising into mountains that get lost in the clouds, snow falling, skiers gliding past. We keep going to the end of the line, however, another 45 minutes on the train, and last year when we got there we skied in 50-degree weather for the whole week, the brown patches on the mountainsides growing noticeably larger as the days passed.

The glaciers are melting in Switzerland, of course. In Klosters they're trying to make the best of it, by promoting a mountain hike to view the effects of global warming:

Here, climate change serves as an occasion for a climate hike. The four-kilometer-long circular tour from the Silvretta hut high above Klosters to the glacier features 15 theme-posts proposing interesting tidbits on the glacier, the melting of the ice, alpinism, the local flora and fauna, and the influence of humans on the Alpine ecosystem.

The Global Warming Trail features 15 theme-posts describing the effects of climate change and giving suggestions as to how individuals may learn to respect the climate in their daily lives. Changes, which may already be observed, are also documented. In this manner, the consequences of climate change are both made visible and tangible. The circular route evolves on a simple trail set in a lovely landscape. The beauty of the trail is in itself a highlight. For further information



Anonymous Bryan said...


I accept the reality of climate change and I am convinced enough of man's impact on the climate to believe we need to make major changes.

But having traveled to Alaska over the summer, I encountered something that I hope someone can resolve for me. 200 years ago, George Vancouver could only sail 5 miles or so into Glacier Bay because it was under thousands of feet of ice. One hundred years ago, John Muir was able to go 30 miles further. By 1916, the retreat was 60 miles. Now, of course, there's not much left of the tidal glaciers.

How do we account for the retreat pre modern-industrial revolution? It's not enough to make me give up pushing for change to combat man's contribution to rising temperature, but it throws a little bit of a shadow on the theory.

Maybe there's a climate scientist lurking who can help me out?


3:29 PM  

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