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Freezing Point Above Swiss Alps Reaches New Heights, Smashing Record From 27 Years Ago

A weather balloon had to rise 5,184 meters above the Swiss Alps before it found freezing point temperatures.

author

Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockJul 25 2022, 16:30 UTC
The summit of the Matterhorn and the Lake Stellisee during the hot summer day as seen from Zermatt in Switzerland
The summit of the Matterhorn and the Lake Stellisee during the hot summer day as seen from Zermatt in Switzerland. Image credit: adamus.photography/Shutterstock.com

Following a sweaty clump of recent heatwaves in Europe, the Swiss Alps have now seen freezing point reach the highest altitude ever recorded, smashing the previous record by a whopping 70 meters. 

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An automated weather balloon had to rise 5,184 meters (17,008 feet) above the Swiss Alps before it found temperatures at freezing point (0°C, 32°F) or below, MeteoSwiss, Switzerland’s Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology, reported Monday. 

The agency explained that this is a record-smasher, breaking the previous record of 5,117 meters (16,788 feet) set on July 20, 1995. 

It's especially startling when the freezing point reaches this altitude in Western Europe because it exceeds even the highest mountain in the Alps, Mont Blanc, which stands at a height of 4,807 meters (15,770 feet). Even before the new record was achieved this week, MeteoSwiss says July has seen a number of trend-breaking freezing point altitudes that have been notably higher than the average you'd expect to see in July. 

"The course of July so far is also record-breaking,"  MeteoSwiss said in a blog post. 

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“To date, there is only one measurement above 5,000 meters, to be precise at 5,117 meters, dated July 20, 1995. A value above 4,900 meters would correspond to a place in the top ten."

“The freezing level is an integral part of the weather report. It marks the height from which temperatures drop into the freezing range," they added. "Currently, this limit is beyond the highest peaks of the Alps, which is not very common."

It’s clear that the climate crisis is starting to impact almost every corner of our planet, even the typically frosty higher-altitude mountains. In fact, research has indicated that global warming is occurring at an accelerated pace in many high-altitude regions. One study in 2015 showed that temperatures above 4,000 meters (13,120 feet) have warmed 75 percent faster than at altitudes below 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) over the past 20 years.

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With this comes huge disruption to both humans and other animals alike. Other research has highlighted how many animal species are being forced to shift their habit further and further up mountain ranges, hoping to evade the warming temperatures below.


Natureclimate
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  • global warming,

  • climate

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