East Face of Eiger Collapsing

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On the evening of July 13, More than 20 million cubic feet of rock came crashing down from the east face of the Eiger (13,025 feet) in Grindelwald, Switzerland — an amount comparable to half the size of the Empire State Building (but, fortunately, only a third of the amount that Swiss Geologist Hans-Rudolph Keusen forecasted). In a report on Timesonline.com, Keusen points his fingers at the rise in global warming (specifically, the melting of the Grindelwald Glacier). In early June, a 16-foot-wide crack appeared near the monster chunk of rock, measuring eight inches wide, but the crack grew (at 35 inches a day) to roughly 16 feet before it gave way, according to Keusen, hired by the Swiss government to monitor changes in the Bernese Alps. Since the appearance, scientists have warned of the eventual unsheathing of the Eiger’s east face, and only days before, a 100-foot high rock formation, dubbed “Madonna,” cut loose. In the same online report, Michael Davies, a professor at Dundee University and member of the International Permafrost Association, said that the increase in massive rock fall on the Eiger stems from permafrost melting. Permafrost is high altitude soil that stays frozen for more than two years in a row, and is responsible for holding much of the surface of the Alps together. Once this permafrost melts, water gets trapped inside the rock creating pressure. The fissure in the Eiger’s east face is a result of this pressure. No significant rockfall is expected to occur on the peak’s famed north face, first climbed by Heinrich Harrer in 1938. Check out video of some Eiger rockfall on the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=477hxSDb2yY&search=Eiger10.

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