Matterhorn disintegrating in the face of global warming
With its four steep faces reflecting the compass points, the mighty Matterhorn has proven an irresistible and often deadly challenge to mountaineers.
But now, the mountain – one of Europe's tallest and most celebrated peaks – is falling to bits due to climate change, according to a new scientific report.
As with other Alpine mountains, experts have already documented the retreat of the peak's glaciers and the thinning of its permafrost in the wake of rising temperatures.
But scientists now say they have evidence that these rising temperatures are also prompting the physical disintegration of the mountain itself.I first learned of frost-weathering of mountain rocks in primary school. I've been familiar with the term "frost-shattered rocks" for many decades. I've walked over mountain screes thousands to hundreds-of-thousands of years old. Scotland's mountains were once as high as the Matterhorn. The Matterhorn is ultimately destined to become deep-sea sediment. I love the "With its four steep faces reflecting the compass points" bit - how do they think the mountain got to be that shape? My school atlas from many decades ago has a picture of the Matterhorn, and an explanation for that shape - glaciers, ice, and freezing water. The normal becomes unprecedented, and history and past knowledge are dumped in favour of the "new discoveries". Not new, and you can't claim to have discovered something that's been common knowledge for several generations if not longer.
"There has been a big increase in the number of rock falls in the past decade that can't be explained simply by the fact that we're looking out for them more now," the lead researcher, Stephan Gruber, told The Independent.
His team's discovery of the key role that icy crevices play in the Matterhorn's decay suggests that global warming's deleterious effect on mountain ranges is greater than previously thought.
"We have shown the importance of icy crevices and the melting water entering them, in the process of rock falls," Mr Gruber said. "Unlike rock itself – changes to which take place over a very long period of time – just a few decades of temperatures rising by a degree or so are enough to affect the ice and water on the mountains."
"It's reasonable to expect the same processes are widespread elsewhere in the Alps at the same altitude," he added.It's reasonable to expect the same processes are widespread elsewhere in the world and have been continuing since mountains and water and freezing temperatures came together in the same place at the same time. Climbers have been wary of ice-weakened rocks on the Matterhorn, in the Swiss Alps, and on mountains worldwide since people had the inclination to climb mountains other than to travel long distances. Here's the North face of the Matterhorn
|The Matterhorn - east face. Source: Free Wallpaper Pic|
|Screes on the slopes of the Matterhorn|
"There has been a big increase in the number of rock falls in the past decade that can't be explained simply by the fact that we're looking out for them more now," the lead researcher, Stephan Gruber, told The Independent.If they weren't "looking out for them" much in the past, how do they know there's been a "big increase"? There's been a big increase in unsubstantiated claims of the abnormal and unprecedented over the last decade too, but unlike these researchers and the Independent, I have been looking out for them. These guys need a reality pill. Reach for the Button: