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UK’s longest patch of snow melts only for eighth time in 300 years | Scotland

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The UK’s longest slab of snow, which has survived countless summers on a remote mountain side of the Cairngorms, has only melted for the eighth time in 300 years as climate talks in the Cop26 are taking place in Glasgow.

Nicknamed “the Sphinx”, the resilient slab of snow can be found on Braeriach, Scotland’s third highest mountain at 1,296 meters (4,252 feet), near Aviemore. It had shrunk to the size of an A4 sheet of paper in recent weeks before finally disappearing in mild weather.

Iain Cameron, a snow cover expert who has studied Scotland’s snow patches for 25 years, said global warming was a big factor. “How ironic and prescient that our longest patch of snow has melted for the third time in five years, just on the eve of Cop26. Prior to 2000, it had only melted three times in the past 150 years.

According to records, the Sphinx had already completely melted in 1933, 1959, 1996, 2003, 2006, 2017 and 2018. Prior to 1933, it is believed to have completely melted for the last time in the 1700s.

Cameron, author of The Vanishing Ice, said the warmer weather caused by the climate crisis “seemed to be the logical explanation” for the increased rate of melting. “What we’re seeing through research is smaller and fewer patches of snow. There is less snow now in winter than in the 1980s and even the 1990s. ”

The Sphinx is found at Garbh Choire Mor, a hollow known as the corrie which was formed by ice or a glacier during the last Ice Age.


A report commissioned by the Cairngorms National Park Authority and released last year indicated that declining snow cover had been observed on Cairngorm Mountain since the winter of 1983-84. The researchers also noted a trend of increasingly warmer weather since the 1960s and suggested that by the 2080s there would be a few years with very little or no snow in Cairngorm.

Before Scottish ski resorts were hit by coronavirus closures, they faced one of their most difficult seasons in 2019, with a lack of snow forcing many slopes to close.

Lauren McCallum, of the international climate crisis campaign group Protect Our Winters, said the Cairngorms – and the world at large – needed to be protected from further increases in temperature. She said, “We need to maintain healthy temperatures for our ecosystems and communities to survive. “

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