Sweden’s Highest Peak Has Changed Due to Climate Change

Need further indication that climate change is having a long-term impact on our planet? Look no further than Sweden, where it was revealed this week that another mountain has taken over the title of the highest peak in the country due to warming temperatures.

For decades, the double-summited mountain Kebnekaise has been hailed as the highest peak in Sweden, rising 2119 meters (6952 feet) above sea level. At least, that was the height of the southern summit of the mountain, which was enough to give it the title of the highest point in Sweden, with the northern summit of Kebnekaise close behind. However, that southern peak also happened to be heavily glaciated, meaning there was a very thick layer of snow and ice on top. In recent years, that glacier has been melting and now it has lost enough mass to have given up its crown as the tallest mountain in the land.

According to measurements taken this summer, which was an incredibly hot one across most of Europe, Kebnekaise’s southern peak now stands at 2095.6 meters (6875 feet). That puts it 1.2 meters behind the northern summit, which now takes over the crown as Sweden’s height champ. That shift may be temporary, as the onset of winter may bring enough snow and ice for Kebnekaise South to retake its lead. But researchers say that it would be a temporary change at best, as the glacier is expected to continue to melt as conditions warm up.

To put things into perspective, climatologists say that the southern summit has lost 24 meters (78.7 feet) over the past 50 years. The melt-off started slowly at first, but has gradually picked up steam to the point that it now seems to be accelerating. When Kebnekaise, which falls above the Arctic Circle, was last measured in 2014, it was seen as only a matter of time before it was no longer the highest mountain in Sweden. Now, five years later that has undeniably come to pass.

Right now, these kinds of stories are an anomaly of sorts, drawing attention for the salaciousness of the headlines. But as climate change continues to grow, we’re likely to see similar occurrences elsewhere.

Kraig Becker