Europe’s Heatwave Melted An Entire Lake In The High Alps25 July, 2019 / Articles
As Europe experiences an unprecedented heatwave, a mountaineer has captured the surprising appearance of a glacial lake in the high Alps.
The alpinist Bryan Mestre took photos of this newly formed lake on June 28 at the base of the Dent du Géant Mountain, part of the Mont Blanc massif in France and Italy. Mestre as well as other alpinists who have often hiked these mountains during summer months admitted this was the first time they had ever seen a lake at this altitude.
Typically, during the warmest days in the summer you can notice some melting but nothing close to creating a brand new lake.
In late June Europe experienced record-breaking heat with temperatures as high as 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). For the first time in record France experienced temperatures above 45°C, topping out at 45.9°C (114.6°F). The old record of 44.1°C (111.4°F) from 2003 killed thousands.
As Marshall Shepherd points out in his article, and explained by the University of Georgia professor John Knox, this smashes the previous record. Imagine a scenario where a runner beats the existing one-mile world record by 3 minutes. This would cause a great deal of skepticism and calls to test the runner for doping. This is the same scenario, beating the world record by 3°F is nearly unheard of and makes it clear that the record heat wave is associated with a warming planet.
The Mont Blanc mountains in France are seen throughout a good portion of the country, looming high into the air and snow capped all year long. The June, 2019 heat wave changed the landscape in the Mont Blanc mountains with this appearance of a lake. The lake sits at 9,800 feet above sea level and is typically covered in snow and ice year round.
The dark colored granite exposed in Mestre’s photos aided in the melting of nearby snow and ice to create the lake. As more ice melts the surface turns from a reflective white to an absorbing black. This positive feedback loop creates more melting and further expands the lake. At the time of the photograph the lake was 10 meters wide by 30 meters long.
After posting Mestre’s photo and video, another alpinist shared their photo of the same area without a lake just 10 days prior.
As heatwaves continue to worsen with a warming Earth, scenarios such as these will become more commonplace. While the formation of the small alpine lake has limited impact on the greater ecosystem it is a tell-tale sign of a changing planet.