On June 11, 2023, the main peak of the Fluchthorn mountain on the border of Austria and Switzerland collapsed without warning. About 100,000 square meters of falling rock, mud and soil filled the valley below.
Mountains collapse due to permafrost
Why did the highest peak of Mount Fluchthorn collapse?
sheet wise business Insider, Like many northern mountains, the Fluchthorn has a lot of permafrost – consisting of a layer of permafrost and soil beneath the mountain’s surface.
Permafrost is important because the water that freezes in the ground holds the land surface together and prevents it from collapsing.
But when that ice melts, liquid water can flow. The ground surface becomes less stable and can often collapse very quickly.
Geologist Jasper Knight of the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa said: “Global warming is causing permafrost to melt, which is a trigger for a series of mountain collapse or landslide events every year”.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), worldwide, melting permafrost mountains are causing frequent landslides.
According to the IPCC, melting glaciers could cause an even bigger upheaval, as mountains lose the ice that has supported their slopes for years.
Which mountains are at risk?
Scientists especially have difficulty predicting when a mountain will collapse or a landslide will occur.
However, they can monitor global climate patterns and determine which mountain ranges are at greater risk.
Mr Knight said steep mountainsides, where glaciers are rapidly retreating, are at greatest risk of collapse. Especially the mountains of the European Alps and the Southern Alps of New Zealand.
When a mountain collapses, it will bring with it other nearby mountains with collapses or landslides.
“When mountains break or collapse, the cohesion of soil and rock on the surrounding slopes is affected, causing massive landslides,” explains Mr Knight.
What can humans do?
According to the IPCC, globally more than 670 million people live in high mountains. Landslides, landslides, rock slides due to climate change have put their lives in danger…
Collapsed mountains can also block roads, damage farmland and increase the risk of mercury contamination of local waters.
On the other hand, it is human behavior that can have positive or negative effects on mountains sensitive to climate change.
Sheet insider spoke to Alejandro Argumedo and Tammy Steiner of the Association Andes (Peru) – an organization that protects biodiversity in the Andes. It is the longest mountain range in the world, at 7,000 km, and is up to 500 km wide in some places.
Argumedo and Steiner state that indigenous Andean peoples have a traditional system of knowledge and use terraced farming strategies to “prevent erosion and landslides”.
However, if the mountain ecosystem is destroyed and the terraces are abandoned, the mountain will still collapse. In addition, deforestation and road construction also destabilize the mountain environment.