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Lake found at 11,000 feet in the Alps may prove climate change is real

Climate change is causing the snow at the peak of the Alps to melt, creating lakes at high altitude.

Aug 8, 2019 |
6 min read

When standing at 11,000 feet after climbing an Alpine mountain, anybody would be forgiven for assuming that they’d be able to keep their feet dry. Understandably, mountaineer Bryan Mestre was stunned and shocked to find a lake at this elevated height in the Mount Blanc Mountains.

Sure, it was pretty made for a great Instagram moment – but the melting of snow at this height is another worrying sign of the impact of climate change on our planet.

The lake was a result of a heatwave that saw temperatures throughout Europe soar through June of this year. Once upon a time, these extreme temperatures would have been a novelty and reason for celebration.

After all, everybody enjoys cracking open a cold drink on a summer’s day and basking in the sunshine. As heatwaves become increasingly commonplace, however, serious consideration needs to be given to the future of the Earth.

What a difference ten days makes

Mestre was not the first climber with a thirst for adventure that scaled the peak of this particular mountain. In fact, just ten days previously, another mountaineer named Paul Todhunter had made the same expedition.

Todhunter shared an image the way the mountaintop is meant to be seen. Covered in snow, and creating a picturesque image that demonstrates the natural beauty of the Alps.

This was just before Mestre made his ascent – and, more importantly, just before a heatwave that saw temperatures rise to hitherto-untapped levels. Everybody throughout Europe felt the impact of these temperatures. France issued red alerts due to the searing temperatures, and vulnerable people even lost their lives.

As anybody that paid even a little attention in science class will know, heat rises – which is why the glaciers atop the Alps were melted. Mestre was in no mood for flippancy, tagging an Instragam post with the caption:

“Time to sound the alarm … Only 10 days of extreme heat were enough to collapse, melt and form a lake at the base of the Dent du Géant and the Aiguilles Marbrées. This is truly alarming … glaciers all over the world are melting at an exponential speed.”

Mestre added in an interview:

“Needless to say, the lake was a real surprise. It’s located in the 3,400 to 3,500-meter area. You’re supposed to find ice and snow at this altitude, not liquid water. Most of the time when we stay for a day at this altitude, the water in our water bottles starts freezing. I have been up there a fair amount of times, in June, July and even August, and I have never seen liquid water up there, and I’m not only talking about Mt Blanc massif. I have been up dozens of mountains around the Alps. During the hottest days, you may find snow melting, but that’s it.”

What happens when mountaintop glaciers melt?

The same thing that will happen if the polar glaciers melt – the complete destruction of the world as we know it. We’re not trying to be hyperbolic here. Melting glaciers is an actual extinction-level event, and it must be taken seriously.

The levels of ice found in the Arctic Sea are already depleting at an alarming rate. The consequence of this is pretty obvious – it leads to rising sea levels. Remember that Kevin Costner movie, Waterworld? If we’re not careful, that will be filed in the documentary section of Netflix rather than Action and Adventure.

Sea creatures will be the first to suffer. If we lose the ice in the sea, plankton populations will drop sharply. Countless sea-dwelling animals rely on plankton as a food source, most notably whales. The entire underwater eco-system will be thrown out of whack, and that will have a dramatic impact on marine wildlife.

The issues will not stop with animals, though. As the sea levels rise, coastal territories will become uninhabitable for humans. The beaches will obviously be the first to go, followed by entire coastal towns and cities. Eventually, the water will continue to flow, and larger, more inland territories will suffer.


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Of course, that all relates to ice glaciers in the sea. What does that have to do with ice atop mountaintops? Well, think back to Bryan Mestre’s discovery for a lake atop Mount Blanc. That solid block of ice is gone, and unless the temperature drops sharply again, it’s gone for good. That means the water will either evaporate or more likely, start to roll down the side of the mountain.

You see where we are going with this? Large pools of water will add to the current sea level, and again, cause it to rise. Flooding becomes increasingly likely, as do devastating eco-disasters such as tsunamis. The world could be a very different place by the year 2100, meaning that we need to act now for the sake of our grandchildren.

Meh, this sounds like scaremongering to me

Some people remain cynical about the impact of climate change on the sea. Ecologists have been claiming that doom is imminent for years, and we’re all still standing. People just need to take a few swimming lessons and calm down a little.

Well, here’s a counter-argument to that. Doom is no longer imminent – it’s here! It cannot be stressed enough that pools of water should not be forming at the top of mountains. That’s just not what Mother Nature had in mind. If we don’t start to give serious consideration to the future, life as we know it will cease.

If the polar ice caps melt, we’ll lose the entire Atlantic seaboard. We can also kiss goodbye to the Gulf Coast and Florida. The retirement plans of a whole generation just up in smoke.

The hills of San Francisco will be rebranded as a small cluster of islands, with the valley of the same city becoming a bay that sits in the middle. San Diego would also be submerged entirely, turning the famous zoo into an empty Seaworld resort.

Thinking that you’ll just pack up and move out of the US to be on the safe side? It’s not that simple, as the discovery in the Alps pointed out. This is a global concern. Large swathes of South America will be wiped out, most notably Paraguay and Uruguay.

Even if you’re thinking that this seems like a good idea to explore Europe, do it quickly. Major cities with notable water bodies, including London and Venice, will be completely submerged. Flat countries like Denmark and the Netherlands will also be gone, and the coastal Mediterranean nations will become one with the Black and Caspian seas.

China will not fair much better, with most cities and provinces claimed by the sea. We’ll also see the last of most of India. Australia will also lose its coastal territories, leaving just the wild expanse of the outback. That means that 80% of Australian nationals would lose their homes, and the surf conditions of this new world would be far from inviting.

It seems that, unless we change our ways, moving to Africa is the only option. Egypt will be lost, but the rest of the nation will remain mostly unaffected. Of course, we could just start to take climate change a little more seriously instead. That seems like a more appropriate response than planning for the end of the world.

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