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Climate Tourism: The Sea of ​​Ice

Des touristes visitent la « Grotte de glace » le 8 juin 2015 sur le glacier surnommé la « Mer de Glace », à Chamonix-Mont-Blanc.

Tourists visit the “Cave ice “June 8, 2015 on the glacier dubbed the” Mer de Glace “in Chamonix. AFP / PHILIPPE DESMAZES

To reach the glacier “Mer de Glace” of Mont Blanc, descend over 420 steps. Formerly, this glacier, which is the largest in France, was visible right out of the gondola. With its lightning cast, we must now plunge into the depths to see it.

In recent years, “it is a new phenomenon. People come there to see effects of global warming, “notes Jean-Marie Claret site operator since 1971. In fact, the” Sea of ​​Ice “has become a symbol, the materialization of climate change

A sign indicates.: ‘level of the glacier in 1985 “

Since the Montenvers station at 1,913 meters above sea level, we must first take a cable car to get down to where the glacier stood in 1946. C It is since that time that is excavated each year the cave of the Mer de Glace, an attraction with sounds, lights and ice sculptures which attracts 350,000 visitors a year.

At the exit of the cable car, a long staircase runs along the granite cliff. After a few steps, a sign indicates “level of the glacier in 1985″. We must then look to see the ice, one hundred meters below, almost invisible under the pile of gray rocks it carries each year.

The ice retreated 2km since 1850, biggest glacier of Mont Blanc with a surface area of ​​32 km2, the Mer de Glace has thinned its front 4 to 5 meters per year between 2003 and 2012, according to a recent study by the Glaciology Laboratory in Grenoble (LGGE) and the Laboratory of Studies in Geophysics and Oceanography Space (Legos) of Toulouse.

The ice has declined by just over 2 km from 1850 and is hidden behind a huge falaise. “It’s the cast that has increased” because “over the past thirty years, summer temperatures have increased 1.5 ° C” on Mont Blanc, said Christian Vincent, a glaciologist at LGGE.

A climate study center should come

The glacier front is expected to decline by 1.2 kilometers by 2040, according to estimates from LGGE with a margin of error of plus or minus 200 meters. “There will be more glacier in front of the Montenvers station”, inaugurated in 1909, predicts Christian Vincent.

A cable car project is being considered to allow visitors to go back more upstream on the glacier, to a place where ice should still hold some thirty years. A large climate study center and glaciers of 400 m2 should come near the station of Montenvers at the 2018-2019 horizon.

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