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.