Mont Blanc Is Melting
5th June 2013
Last modified on July 16th, 2020
Rising temperatures are reducing the glaciers and the situation is set to get worse according to a recent report. Temperatures have risen three times faster than the global average. A new study paints a similar picture in Switzerland.
This week summer has hit the Alps with soaring temperatures. It is not just a heatwave in the UK.
It is currently +28ºC in the Chamonix Valley, +12ºC at 2,000m and -1ºC at 4,000m.
It is taking its toll on the glaciers.
After a poor summer season the hot weather is welcomed by most but it has also focused attention on the longer-term problems facing the Alps as a whole.
A recent report has painted a worrying picture.
The report has been published by the Chamonix Research Centre for Altitude Ecosystems and has taken French and Italian scientists three years to compile.
The Mer de Glace, the longest glacier in the Mont Blanc Massif, has retreated by 645m over the last 20 years. It is predicted it will shrink by 1,000m over the next two decades.
Average temperatures rose by 1.5c during the 20th century.
The frozen parts of the range will represent less than 10 km² during the hottest months of the year against 70 km² between 1950 and 2000.
The snow line will move higher with less of Western Europe’s highest peak under ice. In the summer this will make climbing more dangerous as the rock becomes less stable.
It is expected there will be more landslides as the permafrost melts. Permafrost is frozen water within the rocks that helps keep it stable.
The changing temperature will also change the vegetation.
Forests will move to higher elevations and some alpine flora will see their territory shrink.
Ranunculus Glacialis that currently grows at 2,600m in the area will have to climb to 3,300m to survive.
The research can be found here and the site will be updated and it hopes to collate 194 environmental sciences studies on the Mont Blanc conducted by 65 research organisations from France, Italy and Switzerland.
Meanewhile Switzerland is hotting up too.
A new official study commission by the Swiss government’s Environment ministry has found that temperatures are likely to rise overall by between half a degree and 3.6 degrees Celsius over the next 50 years depending on how rapidly climate change impacts the country.
The study, carried out by Metro Swiss (The Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology), found that temperatures rises were likely to be higher in the Alps than the rest of the country.
In terms of weather predictions as a result of the temperature rises, ‘summer days’ are expected to ‘almost double’ in parts of the country to 80 or even 100 days and summer precipitation drop by up to 20%.
In the winter ‘frosty days’ are expected to decrease dramatically, particularly below 1500m altitude where they may end almost completely in places.
The number of ‘snowy days’ is also expected to decline dramatically with up to a month less winter by 2060.
Winter precipitation will also decrease although extreme weather events such as heavy precipitation as well as periods of drought will become ever more common.
The survey can be read here.
One of our reporters, Freddie, has recently been up in a small plane around Mont Blanc on a sightseeing trip.
Below is what it currently looks like.