A good time to reflect on the retreating features of the glaciers of the French Alps. They have lost a quarter of their area over the last 40 years.
The greatest losses have been in the southern Alps: the decline in the Ecrins Massif is more than three times faster than the levels observed around Mont Blanc. The Chamonix glaciers are aided somewhat by their higher snowfalls. Having said that, Vincent et al (2014) found that the lowest 12% of the 12km Mer de Glace is now stagnant and now poised to melt away. They predict a retreat of 1200m by 2040.
"95% of the world's glaciers that are monitored are retreating. And it's happening so fast. Twenty times faster than any natural temperature change before human beings became so active", says glaciologist Atsumu Ohmura, quoted in this CNN article.
In Les Arcs, the pint-sized Varet glacier saw a protective sheet introduced in 2010 in a bid to ensure the top of the glacier was able to benefit from the winter snowfalls. Apparently it has been quite successful, and the rate of retreat has slowed.
|The Varet Glacier under cover.|
Click here for more on the epic ski run from here
down to Villaroger
Still on the subject of the Varet glacier, some readers might like this account of a failed attempt to make it to the summit by mountain bike.
(Research by Holly Atkinson, University of Sussex)