Scientists think global warming will melt the Alps over the next twenty years, causing the mountains to collapse into piles of rubble. The mountain range is made up of rocks, with an icy crust of permafrost holding them together. This ice is melting fast, and the rocks are falling in great avalanches, making climbing dangerous. One avalanche killed 50 people 4 years ago.

Robin McKie, in the London Observer, quotes mountain guide Victor Saunders’ description of a climbing expedition where “an enormous avalanche hurtled down the mountain’s east face.” A couple of hours later, there was another massive rockfall. Saunders says, “I have never seen so much rock falling at one time. Even then we still did not realize what kind of a day we were going to have,” because an hour later, there was yet another avalanche. Eventually, more than 70 climbers had to be rescued that day. It was one of the largest rescues in mountaineering history.

“I am quite sure what happened on the Matterhorn?was the result of the Alps losing its permafrost,” says engineer Michael Davies. “We have found that the ground temperature in the Alps around the Matterhorn has risen considerably over the past decade. The ice that holds mountain slopes and rock faces together is simply disappearing. At this rate, it will vanish completely?with profound consequences.”

Don’t miss Whitley’s new Journal about climate change.

Does anybody (besides the Canadians) have the answer to this problem?

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