NS The Blanpensio glacier lies at an altitude of 2,700 meters above the homonymous village at the bottom of the southern slope of Grandes Jurassic.
Classified as “dilute”, it is already melting, unlike polar glaciers, which are still frozen to rock. This means the Blanpensio glacier could slide faster than expected due to the layer of water on which it is anchored, increasing the dangers of the Ferret Valley below, according to scientists.
“We are experiencing a significant rise in temperature, which is accelerating the formation of a layer of water under the glacier,” Valerio Segur, director of the Natural Hazards Department in Val d’Aosta, northeastern Italy, told AFP.
Previously, this thicker, less fractured glacier was in a more stable position on the rock, recalls Paulo Verrett, a glacier expert in Courmayeur, but because of global warming, “it has shifted on a smooth surface, and has become more stable.”
Ferret explained that the glacier is sliding slowly but surely, up to five feet a day in extreme cases.
By comparison, the Whymper Ice Block, a polar-type glacier nearby but at 4,000 meters, is sliding at a daily rate of 2 to 8 inches per day.
A massive 15-cubic-meter block of ice broke off the Whymper in October, after authorities blocked access to the tracks below.
The movements of these glaciers are closely monitored with the help of radar and the regional authorities have already prepared themselves with contingency plans, based on different scenarios.
Paulo Ferret said that in the “extreme” scenario, a subsidence of 800,000 cubic meters in the village and the roads leading to it could be envisaged.
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