According to a recent study, Switzerland’s glaciers have lost more than half of their volume in less than 100 years, and this year’s long, hot summer has made the thaw worse. The Tsanfleuron and Scex Rouge glaciers have split apart, revealing previously hidden land. The two glaciers are being monitored by glaciologist Mauro Fischer of the University of Bern. Every year in the spring, he installs ice measuring rods and observes them through the summer and fall. The rods had completely melted out of the ice and were laying on the floor. He emphasizes that his ice measurements were “off the charts,” far exceeding anything we’ve ever measured since the beginning of glacier monitoring, and that “maybe three times more mass loss over one year than the average over the last ten years.”

Glaciers are referred to as the water towers of Europe. They store the winter snow and gradually release it over the summer, cooling nuclear power stations and delivering water to Europe’s rivers and farms. Because the water level is too low for boats carrying big loads, transportation along the Rhine in Germany has already experienced delays this summer. In Switzerland, dead fish are quickly removed from warm, shallow streams. Nuclear power facilities in France and Switzerland had to reduce their production since there was not enough water to cool them.