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France’s highest mountain is shrinking due to climate change

Climate change has caused France’s highest and Europe’s second-highest peak, Mont Blanc, to shrink by three feet since 2017, according to a team of geographical experts performing biennial measurements since 2001. On average, the mountain has been losing 5.1 inches in height each year due to global warming

Located on the border between France and Italy, Mont Blanc is measured every two years in order to help create an accurate model of the dynamics of the ice sheet covering its summit and thus better understand the effects of climate change on the mountain’s structure and its ecosystems. 

Since its peak is covered with a permanent layer of snow with a thickness that changes with precipitation levels and wind intensities, the height of the mountain varies from one year to another. 

“Since the dawn of time, the altitude of Mont Blanc has varied continuously,” the geographers explained in a news conference in Saint-Gervais-les-Bains. However, the changes recorded from 2001 onwards leave no doubt that the mountain is gradually shrinking: while its height in 2001 was 15,783.79 feet, at the most recent measurement in September 2021, the mountain had only 15,773.65 feet.

This Alpine peak is not the only one that has been negatively affected by climate change. In September, 2021, experts from Stockholm University reported that Sweden’s highest mountain, Kebnekaise, shrank by almost 6.5 feet in a single year. In the United States too, record high temperatures have left California’s Mount Shasta (one of the country’s highest peaks) without its usual snow cover.

Although the geographers responsible for measuring Mont Blanc warn that no hasty conclusions should be drawn, taking into account the fact that precise measurements have only been performed since two decades ago, increasingly more scientists are worrying about the dangers to alpine ecosystems the melting of various glaciers pose all over the globe. In order to save these glaciers and other natural structures worldwide, immediate action to mitigate the effects of global warming should be taken at both local and global levels. 

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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