Glaciers melting at record speed

Despite the record cold winter Austrian climatologists say the country’s glaciers melted last year faster than ever before.

They highlighted the case of the glacier on the Dachstein that in 2011 shrunk with the loss of 6 million cubic metres of water – enough to fill 40 million baths.

The melting glaciers are also a big problem for hydroelectric plants in the region.

Energie AG boss Leo Windtner said: “People think that the massive extra amount of water is a boost to electricity supplies – but the opposite is the case. It doesn’t come slowly but comes in huge floods that just is not usable. It’s too much at once. And then when we really need it the water isn’t there.”

The Dachstein glacier at Hallstatt in Austria is one of the main sources of water for the hydroelectric power plants along the Traun.

These represent two thirds of the energy supply in upper Austria. Last year there was a massive shortfall in the amount of energy provided because of the glacier melting.

The latest research was carried out by the region of upper Austria and Energie AG, which estimates that if the current shrinkage rate is maintained then there will be no glacier in another 20 years.