Germany's five glaciers, all in Bavaria's Alps and melting faster than once forecast, could be doomed within 10 years, experts have said. Melt from glaciers is partially responsible for rising sea levels.
Glaciologist Christoph Mayer said Bavaria's five glaciers — combined — had already shrunk to just half a square kilometer (124 acres) of ice — the equivalent of 36 football fields, and 88% less compared to their status around 1850.
Although small, their fate as climate indicators were of "great importance," said Mayer.
Among the doomed ice remnants, said the study, were the two Schneeferner glaciers skirting Germany's highest peak, the Zugspitze, with its more robust northern sheet shedding 250 liters (66 gallons) of meltwater every 30 seconds.
"Bavaria's last Alpine glacier could be gone in as little as 10 years," said Environment Minister Thorsten Glauber of the Free Voter party, the junior partner in Bavarian Premier Markus Söder's Munich coalition cabinet, adding that the glaciers were melting faster than previously expected.
"The causes and reciprocal effects lie definitively in climate change," stressed Mayer.
The Bavarian study coincided with a global study, published this week in the journal Nature, showing 220,000 glaciers are losing 31% more snow and ice annually than they did 15 years earlier, with permafrost loss prompting landslides.
Already, glaciers are responsible for 21% of sea level rise — melting ice sheets across Greenland and Antarctica excluded, the study said, six months ahead of the UN's next climate conference, COP26, in Glasgow.
That accelerating glacial melt of 298 billion metric tons of ice and snow per year equated to swamping Switzerland under 7.2 meters (24 feet) of water each year, said Zurich glaciologist Romain Hugonnet.