Video of the Week: Glacier Atop Mont Blanc on Precipice of Collapse

Italian officials released last month images showing about 250 cubic meters of ice that were poised to break off of Planpincieux Glacier, which lies on the Italian side of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps and the highest in Europe west of the Caucasus Mountains.

The glacier stretches 2.5 kilometers along Mont Blanc’s southern slope and covers an area a little over a square kilometer.

The images were released just as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in its most resent report that the world’s oceans and cryosphere are already being radically altered by a warming world.

Carolina Adler, the executive director of the Mountain Research Initiative, is a lead author on the report.

“In this report we present key evidence on observed and projected trends in warming and how these trigger physical responses in the ocean and cryosphere,” Adler said. “These physical responses also lead to impacts on both people and ecosystems that are evident today, and are projected to increase into the future. However, despite these significant observed and projected changes, there is still an opportunity to reduce the risk of large impacts and ensure adaptation is more effective through emissions reduction. In essence, we highlight the benefits of ambitious and effective adaptation.”

Further illustrating the decline of ice mass on Mont Blanc, the University of Dundee released last week a comparison of aerial images of the peak taken a century apart. Swiss pilot and photographer Walter Mittelholzer flew over the same landscape in a biplane in 1919.

University of Dundee’s Kieran Baxter described flying over Mont Blanc to capture the comparison photo.

(Source: ETH-Bibliothek Zürich/Kieran Baxter, University of Dundee)

“The scale of the ice loss was immediately evident as we reached altitude, but it was only by comparing the images side-by-side that the last 100 years of change were made visible,” he said. “It was both a breathtaking and heartbreaking experience, particularly knowing that the melt has accelerated massively in the last few decades.”

More on GlacierHub:

A Two-Century-Long Advance Reversed by Climate Change

Roundup: Tropical Glaciers, Experimental Cryoconite, and Grand Teton National Park

Making Connections at the 2019 International Mountain Conference

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