The skyline of Sweden’s Kebnekaise massif looks a little different these days. Owing to higher-than-normal temperatures above the Arctic circle, what was once the tallest point on the mountain and in the whole of Sweden may be only the second-tallest. And it happened in less than a month.
According to Time, Kebnekaise's highest part, a glacier-covered pinnacle, measured 6893 feet above sea level in July 2018. Measurements taken in August put it at 6879 feet. Since the second-tallest peak on the formation is made of rock and at a stable height, the reduction in the other peak's glacier has radically altered the hierarchy on Kebnekaise. While the glacial peak is still a few inches taller than its rocky counterpart, researchers expect it to lose its notoriety by the end of August as it continues to melt.
Scientists say the transformation is an example of climate change in Northern Europe, which has been experiencing a heat wave that shows no signs of abating. July temperatures in Sweden reached historic highs of 90°F in some places, leading to forest fires and drought. Near Kebnekaise, temperatures have hit 66°F, well above the norm of 57°F. Gunhild Ninis Rosqvist, a professor of geography at the University of Sweden, told NBC News that the glacier could disappear entirely within 30 years if the warm weather persists.
While Kebnekaise’s shape-shifting might be evidence of ecological crisis, it could have other consequences. Tourists in Sweden often look to scale the highest summit on the mountain. If the rocky peak takes the crown, climbers will face a harder ascent, including a precipitous trip through a steep ice ridge.