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Melting permafrost
Melting permafrost threatens Alps  St Moritz has seen increased temperatures Many of Europe

Melting permafrost
threatens Alps

St Moritz has seen increased temperatures
Many of Europe's most famous ski resorts are
at increasing risk from landslides, as a warming
climate melts the permafrost that holds
mountain surfaces together. 

Average temperatures in many ski resorts have
risen by 1C over the last 15 years, and one
scientist believes this will bring an increased
danger of rockfalls, landslides and floods. 

Most at risk are the
Alps, the mountain
range which covers
much of Switzerland
and parts of Austria,
France, Germany and
Italy, research has

This is because the Alps' steep slopes mean
villages, roads and railways are built directly
below altitude permafrost zones. 

"If these degrade, there would be an increased
frequency of slope failures, landslides and rock
falls, railways blocked and rivers blocked," Dr
Charles Harris told delegates at the Royal
Geographical Society's annual conference in
Plymouth, UK, on Wednesday. 

"There are even frozen rock slopes that are so
unstable they can fail even before the thaw." 

Rising temperatures 

Dr Harris, of Cardiff University, is co-ordinating
a European Union research project called
Permafrost and Climate in Europe (Pace). 

"A borehole sunk above St Moritz 15 years ago
shows the temperature of the ground has risen
half a degree to one degree in that time," said
Dr Harris. "If the temperature inside the
mountain is only -2C at the moment, then it
will not take long to defrost. 

"The combination of ground temperatures only
slightly below zero, high ice contents and
steep slopes, makes mountain permafrost
particularly vulnerable to changes." 

Dr Harris said other boreholes had been sunk
too recently to be able to assess long-term
trends, which he claimed would take up to 50

Areas from as far south as the Sierra Nevada
in southern Spain to the peaks of northern
Scandinavia had already been affected by
climate change, he said.

Author: preluat BBC
Uploaded by: Vrabie Eduard
Views: 8002, Last update: Mon, Jan 8, 2001

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