Cracking of Matterhorn Is Linked to Warming Climate


An increase in glacial meltwater atop the Matterhorn is causing large pieces of rock to tumble from the iconic Alpine mountain, a new study has found.

Using a series of monitoring devices on 17 areas, researchers from the University of Zurich found that an increasing amount of water has penetrated exposed cracks and fissures on the 14,690-foot mountain, which straddles the Swiss-Italian border.

During subsequent cycles of freezing and thawing, that water is triggering subtle movements beneath the rock surface, causing wider fissures. “There has been a big increase in the number of rock falls in the past decade that can’t be explained simply by the fact that we’re looking out for them more now,” Stephan Gruber, lead author of the study, told The Independent.

The findings, he said, may suggest that similar processes are occurring at the same altitude elsewhere in the Alps. The study, which was initiated after a massive rock fall from the mountain in 2003, is published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

1 Comment

  1. Ray Jamieson on

    Sounds to me like the geological and geophysical cycles which created the Matterhorn tens or hundreds of millions of years ago are still at work! Surprise, surprise! Blaming it on global warming is a big departure from the concept of how the planet and various landforms were originally created, and denies the processes that are continually working on the planet to evolve it to the next stage. What next, a tax on someone or something to stop the Matterhorn evolution? A bit more common sense, please! Allow the planet to just get on with being a planet!