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Global warming is turning Sweden's tallest peak into its second tallest

Mount Kebnekaise's glacier-capped south peak, the tallest in Sweden, may soon become the country's second-tallest due to climate change. (Credit: Alexandar Vujadinovic)

Mount Kebnekaise's glacier-capped south peak, the tallest in Sweden, may soon become the country's second-tallest due to climate change. (Credit: Alexandar Vujadinovic)


Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist, theweathernetwork.com

Thursday, September 4, 2014, 9:50 AM - Our record books are going to go through a major rewrite as global warming continues to impact on our climate, but it's not going to be just in the 'extreme weather' section. In some areas of the world, melting glaciers are going to cause a shuffling of the list of the highest peaks in the world. One specific case is Kebnekaise, the tallest mountain in Sweden.

If you're ever looking for the two tallest peaks in Sweden, you only need to go to one spot - Kebnekaise, a mountain in the northern part of the country. The two peaks of this mountain have held the top-spots in Sweden's record books for over a century, with the south peak in the top slot at 2,106 metres above sea level, and the north peak coming in second at just shy of 2,097 metres. Because of this, the mountain attracts many tourists to the area and tourism apparently contributes significantly to the local economy. However, due to global warming, the situation on Kebnekaise may soon change, and it will have a big impact on tourism in the area.

"It's been unusually warm up there this summer," said Stockholm University professor Gunhild Rosqvist, who has been studying the climate of the region, according to the Swedish English news agency, The Local. "No one can remember it ever being this warm."

The reason this unusual heat is such a worry is due to the difference between the two peaks of the mountain.

The south peak is a mountain climber's dream, especially for tourists who are more casual about climbing. It provides the highest point above the surrounding countryside and a feather in the cap of anyone who wants to climb to the highest peak in the country, but with a summit that's reached by climbing up the relatively easy slopes of a glacier. The north peak, on the other hand, is an imposing chunk of bare rock that stands as a challenge to even the most skilled climbers.


Kebnekaise's glacier-capped south peak (left) and its bare-rock north peak (right), viewed from the valley below. Credit: Alexandar Vujadinovic

Back in 1902, when the peaks were first measured, the south peak topped out at 2,121 metres above sea level. In recent years, though, there have been some dramatic loses from that peak. Just four years ago, in 2010, it was measured at 2,102 m, it was down to 2,099 m in 2013, and is now at 2,097.5 metres. According to Rosqvist, its current height is only 70 centimetres taller than the north peak.

"South Peak has been reduced in height by an average of one meter per year over the last 15 years," she said, according to Sweden's research news site forskning.se.

"During the winter, the snow increases the south peak height again, but if next summer also gets hot, the risk is that the north peak will become Sweden's highest peak."

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