Fast-moving, melting glacier threatens valley in Italy

Planpincieux glacier: experts say they are recording ice movements of up to 50cm a day

Officials said unusually high temperatures during August and September had accelerated the ice melt of the Planpincieux. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Officials said unusually high temperatures during August and September had accelerated the ice melt of the Planpincieux. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

 

A fast-moving, melting glacier is threatening a picturesque Italian valley near the northwestern mountain town of Courmayeur, prompting the mayor to close down an access road and for the prime minister to call for action to tackle global warming.

Mayor Stefano Miserocchi has forbidden access to a section of the Val Ferret, outside of Courmayeur, a popular hiking area on the south side of the Mont Blanc massif.

The precaution was taken after experts monitoring the massive Planpincieux glacier said they are recording ice movements of up to 50cm a day.

They warned that a 250,000-cubic-metre mass of the 1,327sq km (512 sq m) glacier was at risk of collapsing.

“There are no models to tell us if it will fall entirely or in pieces,” the mayor told Sky TG24. “We need to keep an eye on the monitoring.”

The glacier is located in the Alps on the Grande Jorasses peak of the Mont Blanc massif, which straddles the borders of Italy, France and Switzerland and contains the highest peak in Western Europe.

Officials said unusually high temperatures during August and September had accelerated the ice melt of the Planpincieux, which is has been monitored by the Safe Mountain Foundation since 2013.

Collapse

Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte alerted world leaders to risk of the glacier’s collapse during his address this week to the UN General Assembly in New York City.

“It is an alarm that we cannot be indifferent to,” he said.

A new special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said on Wednesday that glaciers around the world, outside of Greenland and Antarctica but including Europe, were losing 220 billion metric tons of ice a year. The report said glacier melt was happening faster than before and was accelerating.

The report projects that if nothing was done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, these glaciers in general will shrink 36 per cent between now and the end of the century. But smaller glaciers, like those in the Alps, could lose up to 80 per cent of their ice by the year 2100 in a worst-case scenario.

“Many glaciers are projected to disappear regardless of future emissions,” the new science report said. – PA, Reuters