UK’s oldest patch of snow ‘clings on’ for another winter

The Sphinx on Braeriach mountain in the Cairngorms, Scotland, has narrowly avoided melting for the third consecutive year.

The UK’s oldest patch of snow in the Scottish Highlands has avoided melting and will now remain for another winter.

The Sphinx on Braeriach mountain has only melted seven times in 300 years, and acts an indicator for climate change as it is susceptible to the slightest changes in temperatures.

Researcher Iain Cameron has been studying the decline of the Sphinx for 15 years and climbed to the icy patch on Sunday to check snow was still present.

‘When I sunk my spade into the new fresh snow and heard the reassuring clunk of the Sphinx below I knew it was still there,’ he told The Times. ‘It’s been buried sufficiently and the temperatures now won’t rise that much over the next few weeks. It’s safe until next winter.’

In 2017 and 2018 the Sphinx disappeared completely and this year things weren’t looking hopeful.

‘Things were looking pretty bleak for the Sphinx I thought it was going to vanish for the third year in a row,’ said Mr Cameron. ‘The rate of disappearance over the past 15 years has accelerated dramatically so I expected this small patch of snow to go again this year.’

Scottish snow patches have been disappearing rapidly in recent years.

Last year marked the first time since the 1700s that snow had disappeared entirely in Scotland for two years running, with mild and wet conditions reducing the snow’s chances of survival.

National snowsports body Ski-Scotland described it as a ‘challenging’ season for outdoor ski centres because of the lack of snow and mild conditions

At the time, Mr Cameron was cautious to blame climate change but said it suggested a long-term trend.

‘That has never happened before, and that’s a strong indication of where the climate is going,’ he said. ‘That’s enough evidence to suggest things aren’t right.’


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