EUROPE’S vanishing glaciers and melting permafrost in Siberia prompted scientists to raise new fears over global warming yesterday.
The dual concerns came as a high-altitude Alpine ski run closed yesterday for the first time because of a lack of snow.
Tour operators at Val Senales in Alto Adige, near Italy’s border with Austria, said that the run had never before had to close since it opened 30 years ago. High-altitude ski runs have also been closed in the Tonale Pass and at Marmolada, in the Dolomites.
Walter Maggi, a geologist at Milan University, said that the closures had come after low rainfall in the spring and very high temperatures in June and July. “But there are deeper causes. The finger of suspicion points at global warming,” he said
Melting bog may lead to 'ecological landslide'
By Nic Fleming, Science Correspondent
A melting permafrost peat bog stretching across an area the size of France and Germany could unleash billions of tons of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, Russian scientists have warned.
The huge frozen region, covering around 360,000 square miles of western Siberia, is rapidly turning into a watery landscape of shallow lakes. Experts fear it could release huge quantities of methane trapped in the frozen peat.
The latest alert follows research by Sergei Kirpotin, a botanist from Tomsk State University in Russia, and Judith Marquand from Oxford University.
Mr Kirpotin told New Scientist magazine that the entire western Siberian sub-Arctic region had begun to melt in the last three or four years. He predicted an "ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and undoubtedly connected to climatic warming".
Western Siberia has warmed faster than almost anywhere on the planet, with average temperatures increasing by about 3C in the last 40 years.
Siberia's peatbogs have been churning out methane for 11,000 years but billions of tonnes of the gas has remained locked within the permafrost that covers it.
Because the permafrost is coated in snow and ice, it reflects sunlight before it can be warmed up.
But in recent decades, as the temperature of the globe has risen, the vast expanse of western Siberia has begun a slow thaw.
The melting of the permafrost is more than a mere indication of climate change. It is an example of a finely balanced environmental system that when upset by global warming can trigger a dramatic reaction that drives global temperatures up further.
Art 2 TG
A new report from the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) warns that temperatures in Europe's major cities are rising.
The report analysed summer temperatures in 16 European cities over the last 30 years and found that in most of them, average summer temperatures were at least one degree Celsius higher over the last five years than they were 30 years ago.