The longest, largest glacier in Europe is the Aletsch, in Switzerland’s canton Valais.
The glacier is currently about 23 km. long and blankets about 81.7 sq. km. It’s estimated maximum depth is nearly 1 km.
Because, alas, like most of the planet’s glaciers, the Aletsch, which is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is shrinking, or, as it’s often grimly expressed, “retreating”. Between 1980 and 2016 it lost 1.3 km. That retreat appears to be quickening.
The melting of Switzerland’s largest glacier isn’t just a sad thing for sightseers. The country draws a significant percentage of its electrical power from hydroelectric dams. More dependence will be put on those dams as Switzerland shuts down its nuclear power plants over the next couple of decades. Shrinking glaciers will eventually mean shrinking “fuel” for hydroelectricity.
By Bill Harby
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