Hundreds of people attended a memorial service in the Swiss Alps for a glacier lost to climate change, as a sombre warning for the future.

Adults and children in funeral veils and clothes in the Swiss Alps
People take part in a ceremony to mark the 'death' of the Pizol glacier (Pizolgletscher) ©Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty

On Sunday, about 250 people donned black veils and dark clothing and set off on a solemn two-hour funeral procession through the Swiss Alps, where, following a speech, mourners laid flowers and wreaths on the ground to commemorate the loss of the Pizol glacier.

Pizol, located in the Glarus Alps above Mels in eastern Switzerland, has lost 80-90% of its volume since 2006, Matthias Huss, a glacier specialist at ETH Zurich university told CNN. The glacier will be the first to be taken off the Swiss glacier surveillance network, according to Huss. It has been monitored since 1893 and it's due to vanish completely by 2030. 

Hundreds of people dressed in black stand above the disappearing Pizol glacier
Researchers of the ETH technical university in Zurich predict that more than 90 percent of Alpine glaciers will disappear by 2100 ©Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty

The memorial service was organised by the Swiss Association for Climate Protection. Its coordinator Alessandra Degiacomi said Pizol's loss is a "warning sign." Speaking to CNN, she added: "this is what is going to happen if we don't change our behaviour."

A study by researchers from ETH Zurich, published in the open access journal the Cryosphere, suggests that from 2017 to 2050, about half of the glacier volume in the Alps will disappear "in a limited warming scenario" but by 2100, "under strong warming" i.e. if greenhouse gas emissions are left unchecked, the Alps would mostly be ice-free. 

A child and two adults lead the funeral procession as a group of young people bearing flags walk behind them
Mourners on the two-hour funeral procession ©Farbrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

"Glaciers in the European Alps and their recent evolution are some of the clearest indicators of the ongoing changes in climate," one of the study's co-authors, Daniel Farinotti, said in a statement. "The future of these glaciers is indeed at risk, but there is still a possibility to limit their future losses."

The Pizol funeral follows a similar one that took place in Iceland last month when about 100 people, including the country's prime minister, hiked to the site of the Okjökull glacier for a memorial service. It was the world's first glacier to be lost to climate change.

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