Swiss Glacier Was Ice Free 2000 Years Ago

By Paul Homewood



Maybe the researchers should have read this study from 2005, which gives the full perspective on “melting glaciers”:



He may not look like a revolutionary, but Ulrich Joerin, a wiry Swiss scientist in his late twenties, is part of a small group of climatologists who are in the process of radically changing the image of the Swiss mountain world. He and a colleague are standing in front of the Tschierva Glacier in Engadin, Switzerland at 2,200 meters (7,217 feet). "A few thousand years ago, there were no glaciers here at all," he says. "Back then we would have been standing in the middle of a forest." He digs into the ground with his mountain boot until something dark appears: an old tree trunk, covered in ice, polished by water and almost black with humidity. "And here is the proof," says Joerin.


The tree trunk in the ice is part of a huge climatic puzzle that Joerin is analyzing for his doctoral thesis for the Institute for Geological Science at the University of Bern. And he is coming to an astonishing conclusion. The fact that the Alpine glaciers are melting right now appears to be part of regular cycle in which snow and ice have been coming and going for thousands of years.

The glaciers, according to the new hypothesis, have shrunk down to almost nothing at least ten times since the last ice age 10,000 years ago. "At the time of the Roman Empire, for example, the glacier tongue was about 300 meters higher than today," says Joerin. Indeed, Hannibal probably never saw a single big chunk of ice when he was crossing the Alps with his army.

The most dramatic change in the landscape occurred some 7,000 years ago. At the time, the entire mountain range was practically glacier-free — and probably not due to a lack of snow, but because the sun melted the ice. The timber line was higher then as well.

The scientists’ conclusion puts the vanishing glaciers of the past 150 years into an entirely new context: "Over of the past 10,000 years, fifty percent of the time, the glaciers were smaller than today," Joerin states in an essay written together with his doctoral advisor Christian Schluechter. They call it the "Green Alps" theory.

"The history of the glacial cover apparently is more dynamic than had been assumed until now," says Schleuchter. According to this model, the glaciers were smallest about 7,000 years ago, largest during the "mini ice age" of 1650 to 1850. Since this last cold spell, the tongues of ice have been receding quickly — for a paleo-climatologist 150 years are just a wink in time.

Although their work was reported as “controversial”, glaciologists have long known that glaciers were much smaller than now in the not too distant past. HH Lamb wrote about the phenomenon in 1983, presenting clear proof that the Alps have been much warmer than now for the last 3000 years at least, according to incontrovertible tree line studies. The Little Ice Age of course stands out as the coldest period of the lot.


Climate, History and The Modern World: HH Lamb

The Sunfleuron Glacier mentioned in the Times article may have been free of ice 2000 years ago, but it most certainly has also been ice-free more recently.


November 10, 2022 at 11:51AM

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