EUROPE’S highest mountain, Mont Blanc, has shrunk since it was last measured – and for the first time in 10 years the official height has fallen below 4,810m.
Never exactly the same from one year to the next, French schoolchildren have to learn a different height depending on the effects of the wind and snow. Heavy snowfall and weak winds increase the height of the ice cap that covers the peak but it decreases in the opposite conditions.
The survey has been done every two years since 2001 and found Mont Blanc to be 4,808.73m, 1.29m down from 4,810.02m. The rocky top of the mountain, of course, is much less liable to change, and measures 4,792m.
This year, for the first time, the survey was done in both May and September – and surprisingly the mountain is higher after the summer. The measurement made at the end of the spring in May is nearly a metre lower than this week’s one.
The team also made measurements all over the ice cap to calculate its volume and found that despite the hot summer it was 18,120m3 in September compared to 13,395m3 at the end of May.
Gathering the figures involved an expedition of 23 climbers and it was organised by surveyors from Haute-Savoie.
Over the years of the survey the peak has previously varied from 4,808m in 2003 to 4,811m in 2007. It had not dropped under 4,810m since 2005.