Marmolada, the Queen of the Dolomites.
Located on the borders of Trentino and Veneto, the 3,343-meter peak is the pride of Italy. The Marmolada Glacier, situated on its northern face, is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, with breathtaking views of the Alps and exciting ski and hiking trails.
But in 2020, a study from the University of Padua warned that the iconic glacier could be gone by 2035.
“The glacier in the last 70 years has now lost more than 80% of its volume, going from 95 million cubic meters in 1954 to 14 million today,” said Aldino Bondesan, Italian Glaciological Committee member and professor of geomorphology at Padua University in a statement. “Its disappearance approaches ever closer. It may have no more than 15 years of life left.”
Since 1902, the measurements of the Marmolada have been taken as part of intensive research about the Alps. Glaciers naturally melt, but it takes thousands of years for them to disappear, depending on their location. For so long as the accumulation of snow is equal to or greater than the amount of melting and ablation, a glacier can retain its volume or even grow bigger.
However, in the case of Marmolada, it started losing 5 hectares of ice per year a decade ago. Now, it is losing 9 hectares yearly due to global warming.
But, despite its shrinking size, people from all over the world remain enchanted by the Queen of the Dolomites. And even though Italy has been hit by heat waves and the worst drought in 70 years, tourists continued to flock to this region of the Italian Alps.
Until July 3, 2022, when the pinnacle of the Marmolada glacier broke off and rolled down the slope at an approximated speed of 300 kilometers per hour.
“I heard a noise, at around 2 pm, and when I looked up I saw the avalanche, but didn’t realise then what it was. Within five minutes everything changed – we had this beautiful sunshine, but then it turned dark, cold and windy. I could see people walking down the slope, then nothing. I called the emergency services straight away. I’ve been working here since 2003 and have never seen anything like it,” said Lucia Novak, who works at a mountain refuge and restaurant with overlooking views of the Marmolada.
Below is a video of the deadly avalanche.
Eleven people were killed.
And just two weeks after the tragic incident, an Alpine rescue service flying on a helicopter spotted a new crack on the Marmolada Glacier. The crack is about 200 meters long with a depth of 25 meters. Prior to the discovery of this new gigantic crack, a loud roar was heard by a mountain guide who reported it to authorities.
Now, government experts on polar science are predicting the complete disappearance of the Queen of the Dolomites in the next 25 – 30 years.
Watch this latest video of the Marmolada Glacier!