Dead Bodies Keep Emerging From the Ice After Years Locked Away in Glaciers

Thawing glaciers in the Swiss Alps are causing dead bodies hidden in the ice to be uncovered.

Two unrelated sets of decades-old human remains, as well as parts of an unlinked airplane have been discovered in various glaciers in Switzerland.

Both human bodies were found by hikers who stumbled across the remains as they walked through the Alps.

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Stock image of hikers in the Alps. Two bodies and debris from a plane crash have recently been discovered in the Swiss Alps thanks to glacial melting. iStock / Getty Images Plus

"Glacier ice preserves virtually everything that has been deposited at higher elevations years and decades ago," Daniel Farinotti, a glaciologist at ETH Zurich, told Newsweek. "This reaches from remnants of plants and animals, over equipment-debris and garbage left by mountaineers, to entire bodies."

Around 300 people have gone missing in the Alps in the last century, the majority of who are likely dead.

One discovery was made on the Stockji glacier, near to Zermatt, by 55-year-old hiker Luc Lechanoine. He approached what he thought might be a person in need of help, but was actually a preserved body.

"We don't know how long this person had been there," he told the Switzerland Times. "The clothes were neon colored and in the style of the 80s."

According to Lechanoine, the body was mummified and slightly damaged, "but still complete."

A few weeks later at the Chessjen glacier, a human skeleton was found near an old disused path by some other hikers. Britannia Hut warden Dario Andenmatten told The Guardian that, judging by the state of the bones, the person likely died during the 1970s or 1980s.

Neither body has yet been identified.

The plane debris was discovered on Aletsch Glacier, and was found to be from the wreckage of a Piper Cherokee that crashed nearby on June 30, 1968.

These discoveries come with the record-breaking glacial melting we are seeing as a result of climate change.

"On average over the past decade, Swiss glaciers have been losing about 2 percent of their ice volume every year," Farinotti said. "Studies at various scales, notably at the global scale, have been showing that worldwide glacier melt and wastage has been accelerating during the past decades. The link to climate change as a driver is well established and robust."

If climate change continues at its current pace, it is thought that we might reach a point where there are no more glaciers in the Alps at all.

"Even in optimistic scenarios, in which the global community manages to implement stringent climate mitigation soon, we know that Alpine glaciers will lose a significant part of their present-day volume. Our model simulations suggest that by the end of the 21st century, the losses will be in the order of 50% and more," he said.

Andreas Bauder, also an ETH Zurich-based glaciologist, agrees.

"Based on forecasts by climatologist it has been shown that most glaciers in the Alps are gone by the second half of the century and only ice masses that reach an altitude well above 3500m may survive until the end of the century," he told Newsweek. "Any natural and non-natural objects that are buried in a glacier eventually will reappear by melting."

These cases aren't the only discovery of these bodies due to climate change triggered alterations to the environment: drought conditions in Lake Mead are causing the shoreline to recede, revealing decades' worth of previously submerged human remains.