The Matterhorn is an iconic mountain of the Alps on the border between Switzerland and Italy. Its shape is so recognizable that it is featured in movies, books, and even the logo of Toblerone chocolate. Now, the Matterhorn is cracking thanks to an increase in temperatures due to the human-made climate crisis, according to researchers from ETH Zurich.
As reported in The Times, the team installed 50 high-altitude sensors to monitor how the mountain is coping with the loss of ice. The results suggest that cracks are appearing on the Matterhorn and spreading across its surface.
While the mountain is in no danger of collapsing, the changes can be risky for mountain climbers and people near the base. Once the icy cover of the glacier is gone, the permafrost in the higher regions of the mountain thaws, which can lead to slope instability and landslides.
“Cracks expand and move. Many continue to move in the same direction every year and then at some point it’s too much and a small scale of the surface breaks off. If there were more ice in place – as in the good old mountaineering past – it wouldn’t be that bad, since the ice cover would still hold these pieces together,” Jan Beutel, who is part of the ETH team, told The Times.
The Matterhorn stands at 4,478 meters (14,692 feet), one of the 82 alpine peaks above the 4,000-meter (13,000-foot) mark. Average temperatures in the Alps have increased by almost 2°C (3.6°F) over the last 120 years. That is double the global average, and it is expected to double again over the next four decades.
Alpine glaciers are retreating at an incredible rate, and they have been doing so for several decades now. This affects the local flora and fauna, with several species having to move to higher altitudes, but this eventually presents a problem given mountains have a finite height. Last but not least, the amount of precipitation is changing, leading to less snow at mid-to-high altitudes and less groundwater.
[H/T: The Times]