Almost 300 “snow patches” remain in Highland mountains.
A few days ago I posted an article about snowfields still remaining in Scotland even though it’s almost the end of August. However, I did not realize the extent of these snowfields (which news reports are delicately calling “snow patches”).
Turns out that there are hundreds of snowfields.
Due to the unprecedented quantity of snow that fell between December of last year and March of this year, almost 300 “snow patches” remain in Highland mountains despite the warm weather the region has enjoyed this summer.
Neve – The first stage in glacier formation
On some of these snow patches (snowfields), researchers have come across compacted, dense, ice hard snow called neve, which is considered the first stage in the formation of glaciers.
So far, 265 “snow patches” have been reported, with more expected to be found.
“Colossal volumes” of snow
So far this year, 42 snow patches have been reported on Ben Nevis, 24 on Aonach Beag, where the largest patch was 492 feet long, and 21 on Aonach Mor, where there were said to be “colossal volumes in Coire an Lochain”.
A survey of Cairn Gorm and the Ben Macdui plateau revealed 21 patches and there were six on Meall a’ Bhuiridhat on the edge of Rannoch Moor, the longest of which measured more than 130 feet.
Other results included 23 patches on the Bidean nam Bian massif on the southern side of Glen Coe and 26 on Creag Meagaidh on the northern side of Glen Spean.
The survey has revealed some amazing images – including a translucent snow tunnel on Ben Nevis, which at 4,409ft is the highest mountain in Britain.
Snow tunnels are created when snow drifts over a stream during the winter, said Neil Reid, spokesman for the Mountaineering Council of Scotland
“As the thaw comes, the stream runs under the snow and melts it from below,” said Reid. “Last winter there was especially heavy snowfall up on the mountains and drifts many metres deep were formed in some places, which have lasted well into the summer.”
A different article, entitled “Pensioner discovers 120-metre long glacier in Scotland,” tells of Les Smith, who discovered a 120-meter-long snow tunnel in a gully on Carn na Caim, in Badenoch and Strathspey.
Carn na Caim is the more northerly of the two Munros on the wide plateau guarding the east side of the Drumochter Pass, and stands only 941 meters (3087 feet) high.
The 69-year-old, from Linlithgow, West Lothian, said: “The tunnel stays in shadow for most of the day and rarely sees the sun. Because of that, the snow is still several metres deep in places and below it, the stream has run through to create this spectacular tunnel. It’s like a mini glacier.”
“I climbed down to the mouth of the tunnel. With the correct gear you could probably climb the glacier from within.”
I consider these “snow patches” to evidence of new, present-day glaciation.
Thanks to Argiris Diamantis, Ronald Baker, Cameron Dale, Ken Fine and Ralph Fato for these links
“This is how ice ages start – a buildup of snow which does not melt in the Summer, which leads to a positive feedback loop, as the growing ice sheet reflects more and more sunlight back into space.”