Melting ice sees Sweden’s highest peak lose crown after 139 years

Melting ice due to climate change sees Sweden’s highest peak lose its crown as the country’s tallest mountain after 139 years

  • Kebnekaise mountain used to be Sweden’s tallest peak for more than a century
  • Its glacier shrunk so much it is now the Scandinavian country’s second tallest 
  • In last 50 years southern peak has lost 78 feet of its roughly 197 feet of ice cap
  • Scientists say Scandinavia glaciers are shrinking at a rate faster than expected

Sweden’s tallest mountain has lost its title as the country’s highest peak after melting ice caused it to shrink.

The south peak of Kebnekaise, Sweden’s highest point for well over a century, has been demoted to second place after decades of rising temperatures melted more than a third of the mountain’s glacier.

In the last 50 years, the southern peak has lost 78 feet (24 metres) of its roughly 197 feet (60 metres) of ice cap. It now stands at 6,875 feet (2,095.6 metres) compared with the 6,879 feet (2,096.8 meters) of the northern peak. 

Since 1880, when measurements started, Swedish children have been taught that the southern peak is the highest peak in Sweden but this year the melting of the glacier covering it means the ice-free northern peak is higher for the first time. 

Kebnekaise mountain, formerly Sweden’s highest peak. In the last 50 years, the southern peak has lost 78 feet of its roughly 197 feet of ice cap

Lake Tarfala in the Kebnekaise mountains, Lapland, Sweden. Scientists say Scandinavia’s glaciers are shrinking at a rate faster than expected

Climate change is to blame, as the glacier covering its summit continues to shrink due to rising temperatures, scientists confirmed.

Gunhild Ninis Rosqvist, a geography professor at Stockholm University, said the glaciers in Scandinavia are shrinking at a rate faster than expected.

She told CNN: ‘Temperatures in the summer have increased. Actually, they’ve increased all year round. Even the winters are warming here.

‘What’s happening a Kebnekaise’s southern peak is representative for all the glaciers in Scandinavia right now. It’s a symbol for glacier melt. They’re all melting very rapidly. 

‘The glacier is getting thinner and thinner. It covers less area. And it gets slippery at the top, where it should be only ice. The destiny looks poor for the glaciers.’

Ninis Rosqvist said the shrinking of the ‘iconic’ mountain will resonate with many Swedes. 

She added: ‘It’s a powerful symbol of change. This little peak is an icon in Sweden. But it’s not a surprise. 

‘When the temperature rises, ice melts, but this is something that really hits home for a lot of people.’

Sweden has experienced unusually hot summers in the last 10 years and 2018 was the warmest ever on record.

Last month Iceland unveiled a plaque to its Okjokull ice sheet, the first of the country’s hundreds of glaciers to melt away due to climate change.

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