The view of Kebnekaise's southern peak, soon to be the second highest peak in the country. Photo: Stockholm University
Mount Kebnekaise's southern peak will no longer be the highest point in Sweden by 2015, researchers predicted on Thursday, adding that the change will spell a major blow for tourism in the region.
The southern peak of mount Kebnekaise has shrunk at an average rate of one metre each year over the last decade and a half.
The peak was measured this week as 2,097.5 metres above sea level, meaning it will only be one year before it drops another 70 centimetres and loses its title as Sweden's highest peak.
To replace it - Kebnekaise's northern peak, which is not snow-capped and therefore has a much more stable height.
Professor Gunhild Rosqvist, the director of Tarfala Research Station, said the blow would be huge for the tourism industry.
"The northern peak isn't accessible at all, at least not for the typical climber," she told The Local.
"And it's going to be a real challenge for the people working in tourism up there to continue attracting people. That mountain climb is a crucial earner for the region. They're going to need a major rethinking here, and I hope they come up with something good."
But the broader issue, Rosqvist explained, was the long-term effects the melt will have on the environment.
"It's really sad actually, the fact that the mountain is melting shows an important change in the mountain environment. The vegetation has started to change. It's been unusually warm up there this summer, the reindeer calves are dying because their mothers aren't getting enough water to make milk, and the herders are struggling," she said.
"No one can remember it ever being this warm," she added.
And the changes could have long-term effects if the vegetation doesn't grow back next year.
In the meantime, microbiological researchers are racing against the clock to ensure the ecosystem remains sustainable.