The Gran Sasso glacier has shrunk by 65%: what’s happening

The survey was made by Legambiente monitoring. Since 2000, the Calderone has divided into two formations with an overall decrease in thickness of about 9 meters in the last 25 years.

The Gran Sasso glacier, the well-known Calderone, is reducing due to climate change. Since 2000 it has been divided into two formations, one upper and the other lower, and its thickness, in the last 25 years, has decreased by about 9 meters. These are the latest data from the monitoring of the Caravan of Glaciers of Legambiente, which shows that the glacial surface, which in 1994 was still more than 6 hectares, has been reduced by more than 65% to just over two hectares.

What is happening to the Gran Sasso glacier

The Calderone, now divided into two glaciers, is covered only by the detritus at the end of the summer below which the maximum thickness of residual ice is equal to about 25m, with an overall decrease in thickness of about 9m in the last 25 years. Legambiente underlines how on the Calderone the signal of pollution was very evident with, for example, also the presence of traces of radioactive Caesium following the explosion of the Chernobyl reactor in 1986.

"The Calderone is a glacial body located in the center of the Apennines, very close to the sea, with an anomalous behavior compared to the alpine ones", explained Vanda Bonardo, responsible for the Alps at Legambiente, who believes the importance of this glacier is mainly due "to its curious behavior, unique in the European panorama. Its ability to respond quickly to climate change provides us with very useful data to understand how the climate will evolve in the coming years. A presence rich in scientific information and, at the same time, a fundamental cultural element for the development of this beautiful territory".

The Gran Sasso glacier would respond, according to the experts of Legambiente, to climate oscillations in a much faster way than the glaciers of the Alps. Its position in the center of the Mediterranean area and its reduced distance from the sea make the effects from the meteorological point of view particularly intense. These effects are manifested by the high snowfall, which is contrasted by the increasingly frequent African heat waves, with sand in suspension that greatly favors the melting phenomena. The high walls of the peaks have a protective effect, fundamental for the survival of glacialism in the Calderone basin, to which is added the detrital cover made up of calcareous debris that, with its light coloring, favors the reflection of the sun's rays.

According to the researches of Massimo Pecci, referent of the Italian Glaciological Committee (CGI), that has been studying the area on the Gran Sasso since 1994, one year of particular favorable or unfavorable conditions produces on the Calderone a measurable effect in a response time estimated in about 8 years, unlike alpine glaciers that react on longer times. For this reason, the Abruzzo glacier is a sensitive indicator of the ongoing climate crisis.

Glaciers are at the center of attention worldwide regarding the Earth's warming crisis. For example, this year rain was recorded for the first time on Greenland's highest peak, while the heat wave between July and August melted an amount of Arctic island ice that could cover the whole of Florida.

Stefania Bernardini