Friday, 24 May 2024

Scientists are baffled as Mont Blanc keeps shrinking

Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Western Europe, is slightly less tall after shrinking two metres in two years – but scientists aren’t quite sure why.

A team of French researchers measures the alpine peak every two years. The latest check shows the famous mountain is currently 4,805.59 metres high. In September 2021, it stood at 4,807.81m.

In 2007, Mont Blanc stood at 4,810.90m.

The team, equipped with cutting-edge tools and a drone for the first time, carried out point-by-point measurements of Mont Blanc for several days last month.

Mont Blanc’s height changes from year to year depending on wind and weather, which affects the thick layer of snow and ice on its surface.

The surveyors, from the Haute-Savoie department, said it is now up to climatologists, glaciologists and other scientists to look at the data collected and put forward all the theories to explain this phenomenon.

Jean des Garets, chief surveyor for the Haute-Savoie department, said the difference measured this year may be due to lower rainfall during the summer, and is something that has already been observed in the past.

He urged people not to use the height measurement to ‘say any old thing’ as Mont Blanc ‘could well be much taller in two years’ – cautioning against linking the shrinking peak to climate change.

‘We’ve learned a lot from these measurement campaigns: we know that the summit is constantly changing in altitude and position, with changes of up to five metres,’ said Mr des Garets.

‘We’re gathering the data for future generations, we’re not here to interpret them, we leave that up to the scientists.’

‘This is not representative of global climate warming, because the climatic conditions at the summit of Mont Blanc are rather polar,’ said glaciologist Luc Moreau.

‘It is mainly the wind and the snow which will influence the altitude of the summit. The wind will remove the snow or not.’

Elsewhere in the Alps however, climate change is having a notable impact.

Switzerland’s glaciers suffered their second worst melt rate this year after record 2022 losses, shrinking their overall volume by 10% over the last two years, monitoring body GLAMOS said earlier this month.

Meanwhile in Scotland, the country’s famous Sphinx ice patch melted entirely last month for the fifth time since 2017. It was once considered a permanent feature of the Cairngorms.

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