Published: Thu, September 26, 2019
Research | By Rhonda Reese

Moving glacier threatens valley in Mont Blanc massif

Moving glacier threatens valley in Mont Blanc massif

Local authorities are taking precautionary measures because a block of 250,000 cubic metres of ice could break away from the Planpincieux glacier on the Grandes Jorasses mountain of the Mont Blanc massif.

The Mayor of Courmayeur, the nearest town and a major ski resort, chose to close roads in the Val Ferret on the Italian side of Mont Blanc and mountain huts in the Rochefort area were evacuated as a precaution.

While it's impossible to predict the exact timing of the collapse, observations in August and September showed that the glacier was shifting at a speed of 50 to 60 centimeters (20 to 24 centimeters) a day, experts said.

"This phenomenon once again testifies that the mountain is in a phase of strong change due to climatic factors, therefore it is particularly vulnerable", Miserocchi said in a statement.

Mont Blanc is a major European tourist destination with 11 peaks at more than 4,000 feet high.

Courmayeur mayor Stefano Miserocchi closed down a mountain road and banned access to part of the Val Ferret, a popular hiking area outside of town on the southern side of the Mont Blanc massif. But smaller glaciers, like those in the Alps, could lose up to 80% of their ice by the year 2100 in a worst-case scenario.

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The mayor said at the moment there were no threats to residential or tourist areas but ordered huts in the Rochefort region to be evacuated.

According to a landmark assessment approved by the 195-nation Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), accelerating melt-off from glaciers and Earth's ice sheets atop Greenland and Antarctica are driving sea level rise.

Latest surveys of the glaciers shows their surface has decreased by 40 percent since 1989. Meanwhile, glaciers are dripping away, with a funeral being held for the Swiss Pizol glacier just a few days ago after the vast ice mass disappeared for good.

Global warming has put a glacier in the Italian Alps at risk of collapse, officials warned, leading to road closures, travel restrictions, and evacuations in the immediate vicinity.

In a speech on climate change to the United Nations General Assembly in New York Tuesday, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte referred to the Mont Blanc warning.

"This is an alarm before which we can not be indifferent in the illusion that it doesn't regard me, you, that it is something far away in time or in space", he said. "It must shake us all and mobilize us".

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