According to the measurements recently made by the glacier laboratory of Grenoble, Mer de Glace, the largest French glacier situated on the northern side of the Mont Blanc massif, lost about 3.61 metres (11.84 feet) in depth over its length since October last year. This is more than three times the average yearly loss.
Want to see what climate change looks like? Come visit Mer de Glace!
Glaciers aren’t static, they are like rivers of ice. They flow, they grow, they shrink. They even can flood valleys, depending on the temperatures and snow each season.
"The Mer de Glace usually loses around one metre each year, a rate which has remained unchanged for 30 years", declared Christian Vincent, a researcher at the Laboratory of Glaciology and Environmental Geophysics (LGGE) in Grenoble.
If in 1988, it took 3 steps to get down to the ice cave, now, Mer de Glace has shrunk so fast that visitors must go down 370 steps to get there.
The main factors that contributed to the glacier shrinking were the warm temperatures, particularly during summer 2015, and the low levels of snowfall between October 2014 and May 2015.
Mountain glaciers in danger of disappearing
Researchers have also noted that another Alpine glacier lost over three metres in depth this year. This is Saint-Sorlin glacier, situated above the resort of Saint-Sorlin d'Arves.
"This is an enormous deficit. All of the glaciers from the French Alps were experiencing the same effect" added Vincent. If global warming continues at the expected rate, Vincent warns that glaciers in the Alps below 3,500 metres altitude will disappear before the turn of the next century.
From November 30 to December 11, 2015, in Paris, will be held the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21), in order to provide solutions for this new phenomenon.