A record-setting European heat wave has so rapidly melted the glacier atop Sweden’s highest mountain that the peak has now become the country’s second-tallest mountain, scientists say.
The northern, glaciated peak of Kebnekaise Mountain, which just a few years ago was 6,909 feet tall, lost 13 feet of ice and snow from July 2 to July 31, Swedish scientists report. That ice loss was enough to lower the elevation of the north peak below the neighboring, non-glaciated southern peak on Kebnekaise, which is now the nation’s tallest, at 6,870 feet.
The glaciated peak on Kebnekaise in far northern Sweden has been steadily losing ice in recent years. But Stockholm University geographer Gunhild Ninis Rosqvist said that this summer’s extreme heat caused unprecedented melting, with water flowing off the sides of the glacier.
“This glacier is a symbol for all the glaciers in the world,” said Rosqvist. “This whole environment is melting, the snow is melting, and it affects the entire ecosystem: the plants, the animals, the climate, everything.”
Temperatures at the top of Kebnekaise have soared to nearly 70 degrees F this summer as much of Europe has suffered through an unprecedented heat wave that has stunted wheat harvests, caused numerous forest fires in Sweden and other countries, and led to hospitalizations and deaths across the continent.