Viridian Note 00380: So Long, Mont Blanc
- Key concepts:
Mont Blanc, alpine eco-tourism, landscape changes, economic damage
- Attention Conservation Notice:
to cause sensations of dread.
Dawn Danby's fabulous sustainable design portal.
She won a Viridian contest once, wow...
Awe-inspiring Dutch photos of sometime Viridian
contest judge Dr. Natalie Jeremijenko.
Dr. Natalie's Viridian Neologue Contest, which
was one of our best ever, even if I did win it myself.
Oh my gosh yikes that's scary.
French Beaujolais harvest in a month early, if you can call that a harvest.
The Kyoto Protocol Thermometer. It's only been eleven
years since this thing was signed. The catastrophe
consequent on failing to enforce Kyoto is coming on so
quickly that we may actually see some of the obstructive
malefactors tried and punished within our own lifetimes.
Obviously today's international legal structure isn't
up for this activity, but once the Alps melt, lawyers
might get creative.
"Record heatwave closes Mont Blanc to tourists
"Dramatic proof of global warming as peaks begin to
crumble in high temperatures and snowline retreats
Sunday August 17, 2003
"It figured as a stop on adventurous young men's
nineteenth-century Grand Tour, and in summer 300 people
might climb it in a single day. This year, for the first
time since its conquest in 1786, the heatwave has made
western Europe's highest peak too dangerous to climb.
"Mont Blanc is closed.
"The conditions have been so extreme, say
glaciologists and climate experts, and the retreat of the
Alps' eternal snows and glaciers so pronounced, that the
range == and its multi-billion-pound tourist industry ==
may never fully recover. The freak weather, with no
substantial snowfall since February, means pylons holding
up ski-lifts and cable cars may be too dangerous to use
next winter, while the transformation of shining mountains
into heaps of grey scree and rubble is unlikely to
persuade tourists there this summer to return. (((I
really wish commentators would learn to stop saying
"freak weather." Climate change is a universal condition.
It's as common as the very air we breathe.)))
"From the streets of Chamonix, the bustling resort at
its base, Mont Blanc and its outlying peaks, the Aiguille
du Midi, Mont Blanc du Tacul and Mont Maudit, rise in a
giant curtain usually filling half the sky with dazzling
whiteness. This year they are grey with old, dirty ice
from which the overlying snow has long melted, while their
slopes are being raked by regular fusillades of rocks,
some the size of cars, dislodged as the ice surrounding
them melts in the heat.
(((Time for that Viridian standby, "Eco-Disaster
"In some areas it is too dangerous to follow paths
that would normally be used by thousands of ramblers.
"From Chamonix, three routes suited to guided climbers
of modest ability lead to the summit of Mont Blanc, almost
16,000ft above sea level. Two of these routes, the so-
called Grands Mulets and the 'three summits' path via Mont
Blanc du Tacul, have been turned into death traps of open
crevasses, unstable, overhanging ice cliffs and vertical
icy walls, where normally there would be a pleasant,
albeit strenuous, track through the snow.
"The third route, the Gouter Ridge, is one of the
worst spots for rockfalls. After two climbers died merely
trying to reach the restaurant near the start of the route
last week, Chamonix guides announced that using this path
was 'strongly ill-advised'. A guides' spokeswoman said:
'We are not taking bookings for Mont Blanc by any route.
For this year, it is finished.' (((Maybe the Swiss can
find a more strenuous breed of tourist who enjoys
"overhanging ice cliffs" and "death traps of open
"'No one has ever seen a year like this,' said a
spokesman for Chamonix's Office de Haute Montagne.
(((Yeah, but it's the years after this that are gonna be
the interesting years.))) 'There has been occasional rain
in the valley, which would normally fall as snow in the
high mountains. But after a very warm and dry spring, the
freezing level has mostly been above 13,000ft since the
beginning of June.'
"Those who know the mountains have been astonished to
see no snow on the summit of Mont Blanc's subsidiary
summit, the Dome de Gouter == almost 15,000ft high.
(((Nobody now "knows the mountain." They only know the
way the mountain used to be.)))
"Famous peaks are disintegrating before Chamoniards'
eyes. Patricia Rafaelli, a ski instructor, was in her
office at the Chamonix golf club watching the Dru, a
granite spire, which bears some of the world's hardest
rock climbs, falling apart as the ice holding it together
melted. 'I'm sitting here and every hour or so there is
another rockfall, with boulders thundering down through
the forests below the mountain and filling the sky with
dust,' she said.
"Glaciologists estimate it will take 30-40 metres of
snow, which would normally take several harsh winters to
fall, to make good the deficit of snow and ice that has
melted this summer.
"Dr Jonathan Bamber, reader in glaciology at Bristol
University, said it is likely that, unless global warming
unexpectedly goes into reverse, the damage to the Alpine
environment and to the tourism that depends upon it can
never be repaired.
"He said: 'People don't seem prepared to take real
notice of [global warming] and start to press for
something to be done until it affects their own backyard
and livelihood. What's happened to the Alps this year,
coming after a long run of very warm years, is almost an
allegory for the kind of events that may take place
elsewhere.' (((Great coinage there, Dr. Bamber. Sure hope
that the British powers-that-be don't cut your funding for
"sexing-up" the loss of a giant global landmark.)))
"Bamber, an experienced mountaineer, described the
effective closure of Mont Blanc as historic: 'Climbing
Mont Blanc from Chamonix with a guide is something people
have done for over 200 years.
"'This is a major wake-up call, (((lotta "wake-up
calls" going on these days == too bad the planet is
snoozily mesmerized by those who conquer oil pipelines and
those who blow them up))) and no way is a normal winter
going to put this back. You're looking at something that
is going to have a serious long-term impact.'
"Bamber said that the melting of the layer of
permafrost that holds the peaks together, said to have
occurred this year to a depth of seven feet, will make ski
facilities, such as lifts and cable-car pylons unstable,
costing millions to repair. 'I wouldn't be buying shares
in the ski industry right now,' he said. (((Hear that?
Better drive our SUVs over while there's still something
to ski on!)))
"While the lower resorts do not rely on the permafrost
for their lifts, they are already at risk from the steady
rise in the winter snowline. A Unesco report last year
quoted Swiss glaciologist Bruno Messerli from the
University of Bern, who said that within 20 years low-
level ski stations would be forced to close.
"'Big banks will no longer give loans for new ski
industry constructions,' he said, adding that from 1850 to
1980 Alpine glaciers lost half their volume, and in the 20
years from 1980 to 2000, another quarter of what was left
was also lost. (((No new bank loans? Hey, try insuring
the old constructions during those incessant
"Bamber said the effect on summer tourism would be
disastrous. 'Who wants to come and see a pile of stones?
This isn't why people visit the Alps,' he said. (((Well,
that'll be why they do it from now on.)))
"He warned that the disappearance of snow could
intensify global warming and damage to the mountains,
because once snow is replaced by darker, matt surfaces,
such as grey ice and rubble, heat and light once reflected
into space are absorbed. 'You get a very strong positive
feedback at both the poles and in mountain ranges when
this happens,' he said. (((Paint the mountains white.)))
"Bamber is leading a team working on the consequences
for the whole Northern Hemisphere and its climate of the
fact that by 2050 it is likely there will be no sea ice at
all in summer in the Arctic: 'This will have very profound
consequences, with the likelihood of much more
precipitation and violent storms,' he said.
"Doug Scott, one of Britain's greatest mountaineers,
said he was glad he had done his Alpine mountaineering in
the 1960s and 70s. (((Yeah, the sex and drugs were better
"'It's a tragedy,' he said. 'Here is the most
dramatic and visible proof that the climate is changing,
and still the Americans won't sign the Kyoto Agreement
restricting greenhouse gas emissions.'
Link: The sinister, ever-growing catalog of organized
Lysenkoism within the Bush Administration
"Fire and floods worldwide (((It just keeps getting
"Average temperatures across Europe have been 5C
warmer for the past two months. Drought is costing
billions of euros in crop damage.
"In India, temperatures have reached 49C, resulting in
more than 1,500 deaths.
"Heatwaves and flooding have killed 569 people so far
"A state of emergency has been declared in British
Columbia after the worst fires in 50 years.
"Pakistan's heatwave followed by rains has left
hundreds of thousands homeless and damaged 45 per cent of
crops in some states.
"In Russia, hundreds of fires have devastated swaths
of Siberia. Croatia has lost 12,300 acres of forests and
"A national disaster has been declared in Portugal
after fires killed 11 and destroyed 100,000 acres of
"In Germany, record temperatures continue with the
Rhine drying up in parts and farmers unable to feed their
(((This reassuring news just in: liberals made all this
up. Don't blame the coal and oil companies who employ us
== blame the jet stream!)))
O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O
ON THE PLUS SIDE, CO2 POLLUTION CEASES
QUICKLY WHEN CIVILIZATION COMES
RIGHT APART AT THE SEAMS
O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O