Slovenia’s primary glacier or what bears the closest relation to a permanent ice field has this summer depreciated in size to levels not seen since the broiling heat of 2003. Current measurements equate to the glacier covering an area less than one hectare, significantly down from the 2014 ‘peak’ of 3.6 hectares and another world away from when records of the glacier began, in 1969, when in excess of fifteen acres were overlaid by the Kredarica-based Triglav ice field.

Despite being situated at an altitude in excess of 7,000 feet this relatively modest elevation doesn’t automatically afford the glacier protection from downwasting, especially should the ice occupy a south-facing aspect. The worrying thinning of the ice hasn’t though come as a shock during a July in Slovenia that has broken all records for the amount of days and consecutive days of temperatures that have surpassed the 30 degrees Celsius mark(86 degrees Fahrenheit). With the potential of another month of heatwave conditions ahead the prospect of the glacial mass all but disappearing is a very real possibility.

Whilst the unprecedented meteorological conditions within Slovenia so far this summer have heavily contributed to glacial shrinkage, it appears the relative absence of snow during the preceding winter season has failed to afford the ice a level of protection it would have normally expected. Once the glacier’s surface becomes visible damage to the permanent ice becomes a formality during a melting season with still two months to run. It is therefore not the brutally hot summer temperatures that act as a precursor to glacial deterioration but the amount of(or lack of) snow during the previous winter that forms a protective blanket atop the established ice.

Although I classed the Triglav Glacier as the country’s preeminent ice field it is in fact one of an extremely select band of two; the other, albeit minuscule example to be found within Slovenia is situated beneath the Kamnik-Savinja Alps-based Skuta peak. Measured in 2013 at a mere 1.6 hectares the glacier two years ago was nevertheless larger than the contemporary quantification of its larger Triglav cousin but whilst physical data for 2015 is unavailable, it is to be assumed it too has also shrunk to a shadow of its former self. It is perhaps though all the more remarkable that the Skuta Glacier has remained in situ for as long as it has, its situation below the 7,000 feet threshold making it one of Europe’s lowest-lying glaciers.

Styled as being located on the sunny side of the Alps, this laudatory marketing slogan certainly walks the walk when temperatures in the Slovenian Alps regularly eclipse those in the Austrian Tirol and Swiss Alps, thanks to the influence on its climate that the Adriatic passes on having drawn much of its heat from the Mediterranean and North Africa. Climate change is though exacerbating the natural climatic mores endemic to Slovenia, where Global Warming is accelerating far faster than previously envisaged. Whether climate change or a natural cycle of deterioration before a future, organic period of glacial growth is responsible for the shrinking of Slovenia’s glaciers is difficult to tell, especially since the metrics used to gauge the ebb and flow of ice fields are only effective when adjudged over generations, or even centuries. On that premise it therefore seems if a wider pattern of global warming is influencing the size of glaciers, only future generations will be best placed to make a qualified judgment from an aggregation of year on year data.

Further reading on this subject can be viewed at:

RTV Slovenia: soaring temperatures shrink Triglav Glacier

Mountain Cartography: monitoring of the Triglav Glacier

Kredarica webcam

Wikipedia: Skuta Glacier