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High and dry… Proof of vanishing glaciers

Abandoned: The Belvedere Hotel shut after the Rhone glacier (pictured top in 1938) retreated more than a mile PICTURES: DENIS BAILBOUSE/REUTERS

IF EVER further proof of global warming was needed, then these photographs are surely it.

Shocking ‘then and now’ pictures of glaciers across Switzerland reveal the incredible extent to which the ice has retreated since Victorian times.

Grey scree and boulders, streams and rivers have replaced vast ice sheets. Instead of snow, there’s grass.

Shrinking: Aletsch glacier taken between 1860 and 1890 (inset) and today

Switzerland has already lost more than 500 glaciers, with its government reporting that 90 per cent of the remaining 1,500 could be lost by the end of the century.

One victim of the country’s retreating ice is the famous Hotel Belvedere, built in the Furka pass overlooking the Rhone glacier in 1882 to serve Alpine tourists.

The hotel once played host to wild parties and even appeared as a backdrop in the 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger. Not only could guests marvel at the glacier directly below, but they could also walk out onto it.

Melting away: Gorner glacier in Zermatt is retreating by 100ft a year

Three years ago the Belvedere was forced to close its doors, left abandoned by the ice which has retreated more than a mile uphill.

Meanwhile, in another archive photograph taken in the late 19th century, a group sit on a boulder in front of the Aletsch glacier — the largest in the Alps.

In the image, a huge channel of ice can be seen merging with the main body of the glacier. Today they no longer join.

Gone green: A forest stands where the Trient glacier covered the valley 1891

The Gorner glacier in Zermatt is the second largest in the Alps and it too is shrinking fast — around 100ft a year. Since 1859 it has retreated a mile and a half. At the Trient glacier, a forest has grown, transforming a landscape once covered in ice.

The photographs were taken by Reuters photographer Denis Balibouse, who said: ‘It’s mind-blowing the amount of ice that has gone.’