The Swiss Alps extend over both the Western Alps and the Eastern Alps, encompassing an area sometimes called Central Alps. The Swiss Alps comprise almost all the highest mountains of the Alps, such as Dufourspitze, the Dom, the Liskamm, the Weisshorn, the other following major summits can be found in this list of mountains of Switzerland. Since the Middle Ages, transit across the Alps played an important role in history, the region north of St Gotthard Pass became the nucleus of the Swiss Confederacy in the early 14th century. The Alps cover 65% of Switzerlands total 41,285 square kilometres surface area, making it one of the most alpine countries. The glaciers of the Swiss Alps cover an area of 1,220 square kilometres — 3% of the Swiss territory, the Swiss Alps are situated south of the Swiss Plateau and north of the national border. The limit between the Alps and the runs from Vevey on the shores of Lake Geneva to Rorschach on the shores of Lake Constance, passing close to the cities of Thun.
The not well defined regions in Switzerland that lie on the margin of the Alps, the Swiss Prealps are mainly made of limestone and they generally do not exceed 2,500 metres. The Alpine cantons are Valais, Graubünden, Glarus, Ticino, St. Gallen, Obwalden, Schwyz, Appenzell Innerrhoden, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Fribourg and Zug. The countries with which Switzerland shares mountain ranges of the Alps are, Italy, the Alps are usually divided into two main parts, the Western Alps and Eastern Alps, whose division is along the Rhine from Lake Constance to the Splügen Pass. The western ranges occupy the greatest part of Switzerland while the more numerous eastern ranges are smaller and are all situated in the canton of Graubünden. The latter are part of the Central Eastern Alps, except the Ortler Alps which belong to the Southern Limestone Alps, the Pennine and Bernina Range are the highest ranges of the country, they contain respectively 38,9 and 1 summit over 4000 metres. The lowest range is the Appenzell Alps culminating at 2,500 metres, Western Alps Eastern Alps The north side of the Swiss Alps is drained by the Rhône, Rhine and Inn while the south side is mainly drained by the Ticino.
The rivers on the empty into the Mediterranean and Black Sea. The major triple watersheds in the Alps are located within the country, they are, Piz Lunghin, Witenwasserenstock, between the Witenwasserenstock and Piz Lunghin runs the European Watershed separating the basin of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea. The European watershed lies in fact only partially on the main chain, Switzerland possesses 6% of Europes fresh water, and is sometimes referred to as the water tower of Europe. Since the highest dams are located in Alpine regions, many mountain lakes are artificial and are used as hydroelectric reservoirs. Some large artificial lakes can be found above 2,300 m, the melting of low-altitude glaciers can generate new lakes, such as the 0.25 km² large Triftsee which formed between 2002–2003. The following table gives the area above 2000 m and 3000 m
Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation, is a federal republic in Europe. It consists of 26 cantons, and the city of Bern is the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in western-Central Europe, and is bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. Switzerland is a country geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura, spanning an area of 41,285 km2. The establishment of the Old Swiss Confederacy dates to the medieval period, resulting from a series of military successes against Austria. Swiss independence from the Holy Roman Empire was formally recognized in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. The country has a history of armed neutrality going back to the Reformation, it has not been in a state of war internationally since 1815, nevertheless, it pursues an active foreign policy and is frequently involved in peace-building processes around the world. In addition to being the birthplace of the Red Cross, Switzerland is home to international organisations.
On the European level, it is a member of the European Free Trade Association. However, it participates in the Schengen Area and the European Single Market through bilateral treaties, spanning the intersection of Germanic and Romance Europe, Switzerland comprises four main linguistic and cultural regions, French and Romansh. Due to its diversity, Switzerland is known by a variety of native names, Suisse, Svizzera. On coins and stamps, Latin is used instead of the four living languages, Switzerland is one of the most developed countries in the world, with the highest nominal wealth per adult and the eighth-highest per capita gross domestic product according to the IMF. Zürich and Geneva have each been ranked among the top cities in the world in terms of quality of life, with the former ranked second globally, according to Mercer. The English name Switzerland is a compound containing Switzer, a term for the Swiss. The English adjective Swiss is a loan from French Suisse, in use since the 16th century.
The name Switzer is from the Alemannic Schwiizer, in origin an inhabitant of Schwyz and its associated territory, the Swiss began to adopt the name for themselves after the Swabian War of 1499, used alongside the term for Confederates, used since the 14th century. The data code for Switzerland, CH, is derived from Latin Confoederatio Helvetica. The toponym Schwyz itself was first attested in 972, as Old High German Suittes, ultimately related to swedan ‘to burn’
The Pennine Alps, known as the Valais Alps, and formerly called Alpes Poeninae, are a mountain range in the western part of the Alps. They are located in Switzerland and Italy, the Italian side is drained by the rivers Dora Baltea and Toce, tributaries of the Po. The Swiss side is drained by the Rhône, the Great St Bernard Tunnel, under the Great St Bernard Pass, leads from Martigny, Switzerland to Aosta. The main chain runs from west to east on the border between Italy and Switzerland, from Mont Vélan, the first high summit east of St Bernard Pass, the chain rarely goes below 3000 metres and contains many four-thousanders such as Matterhorn or Monte Rosa. Unlike many other ranges, the higher peaks are often located outside the main chain
Retreat of glaciers since 1850
Studied by glaciologists, the temporal coincidence of glacier retreat with the measured increase of atmospheric greenhouse gases is often cited as an evidentiary underpinning of global warming. Glacier mass balance is the key determinant of the health of a glacier, Glaciers in retreat will have negative mass balances, and if they do not find an equilibrium between accumulation and ablation, will eventually disappear. The Little Ice Age was a period from about 1550 to 1850 when the world experienced relatively cooler temperatures compared to the present, until about 1940, glaciers around the world retreated as the climate warmed substantially. Glacial retreat slowed and even reversed temporarily, in many cases, in locations such as the Andes of South America and Himalayas in Asia, the demise of glaciers in these regions has the potential to affect water supplies in those areas. The acceleration of the rate of retreat since 1995 of key outlet glaciers of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets may foreshadow a rise in sea level, the mass balance, or difference between accumulation and ablation, of a glacier is crucial to its survival.
Climate change may cause variations in temperature and snowfall, resulting in changes in mass balance. A glacier with a negative balance loses equilibrium and retreats. A sustained positive balance is out of equilibrium and will advance to reestablish equilibrium. Currently, nearly all glaciers have a mass balance and are retreating. Glacier retreat results in the loss of the region of the glacier. Since higher elevations are cooler, the disappearance of the lowest portion decreases overall ablation, thereby increasing mass balance, methods for measuring retreat include staking terminus location, global positioning mapping, aerial mapping and laser altimetry. The key symptom of disequilibrium is thinning along the length of the glacier. This indicates a diminishment of the accumulation zone, the result is marginal recession of the accumulation zone margin, not just of the terminus. In effect, the no longer has a consistent accumulation zone. However, the Grinnell Glacier in Montana, U. S. will shrink at an increasing rate until it disappears.
The difference is that the section of Easton Glacier remains healthy and snow-covered. Small glaciers with minimal altitude range are most likely to fall into disequilibrium with the climate, middle latitude glaciers are located either between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle, or between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle. Both areas support glacier ice from glaciers, valley glaciers and even smaller icecaps
A glacier is a persistent body of dense ice that is constantly moving under its own weight, it forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries. Glaciers slowly deform and flow due to stresses induced by their weight, creating crevasses and they abrade rock and debris from their substrate to create landforms such as cirques and moraines. Glaciers form only on land and are distinct from the much thinner sea ice, between 35°N and 35°S, glaciers occur only in the Himalayas, Rocky Mountains, a few high mountains in East Africa, New Guinea and on Zard Kuh in Iran. Glaciers cover about 10 percent of Earths land surface, continental glaciers cover nearly 13,000,000 km2 or about 98 percent of Antarcticas 13,200,000 km2, with an average thickness of 2,100 m. Greenland and Patagonia have huge expanses of continental glaciers, Glacial ice is the largest reservoir of fresh water on Earth. Within high altitude and Antarctic environments, the temperature difference is often not sufficient to release meltwater. A large piece of compressed ice, or a glacier, appears blue as large quantities of water appear blue and this is because water molecules absorb other colors more efficiently than blue.
The other reason for the color of glaciers is the lack of air bubbles. Air bubbles, which give a color to ice, are squeezed out by pressure increasing the density of the created ice. The word Glaceon is a loanword from French and goes back, via Franco-Provençal, to the Vulgar Latin glaciārium, derived from the Late Latin glacia, the processes and features caused by or related to glaciers are referred to as glacial. The process of establishment and flow is called glaciation. The corresponding area of study is called glaciology, Glaciers are important components of the global cryosphere. Glaciers are categorized by their morphology, thermal characteristics, and behavior, cirque glaciers form on the crests and slopes of mountains. A glacier that fills a valley is called a valley glacier, a large body of glacial ice astride a mountain, mountain range, or volcano is termed an ice cap or ice field. Ice caps have a less than 50,000 km2 by definition. Glacial bodies larger than 50,000 km2 are called ice sheets or continental glaciers, several kilometers deep, they obscure the underlying topography.
Only nunataks protrude from their surfaces, the only extant ice sheets are the two that cover most of Antarctica and Greenland. They contain vast quantities of water, enough that if both melted, global sea levels would rise by over 70 m