Paris, August2, 2004

The rock summit of the Mont Blanc, 40 m west of the ice summit.

Researchers at the LGGE [1] of the CNRS in Grenoble, France, in partnership with Swiss researchers at the ETH [2] in Zurich, Switzerland, measured the rocky relief of the Mont Blanc under its mantle of ice, using radar exploration. Their results indicate that the rock summit that culminates at 4,792 m is actually 40 m west of the ice summit at 4,807 m. These studies lay the way for an ice core drilling program that will begin in the fall of 2004. One of the aims of this program is to shed light on the evolution of atmospheric composition and temperatures at the summit for the past 100 years or more.

The LGGE of Grenoble (France) and the ETH of Zurich (Switzerland) have initiated an ice core drilling program of the summit of the Mont Blanc.  The aim of this project is to learn about the climate in the past by analysing the temperature and the chemical composition of ice accumulated over time.  Drilling for ice cores requires very specific knowledge of the rocky summit under the ice.  


To obtain this information, researchers have undertaken a study of the Mont Blanc summit using satellite-based radar exploration.  With a peak of 4,807.5 m, the Mont Blanc has not been studied to any real extent and the altitude of the rock summit and the thickness of the ice that covers it are unknown. 


The results of this exploration were announced on Monday, August 2, 2004, at 2:30pm, during a press conference in Chamonix, France, by Christian Vincent, the program's coordinator at the LGGE.  


The thickness of the layer of ice at the peak of 4,807 m is 28 meters, bringing the rock summit at this point to 4,779 (+ or – 1) m. Even more surprising, it seems that the rock summit is actually 40 m west of the ice summit.  It culminates at 4,792 m below 14 meters of ice.  At this point, the altitude on the surface is therefore 4,906 m (see diagram).


This information will allow researchers to begin drilling at the summit and start to collect ice cores by the fall of 2004. 



A press pack and photos are available on request.  




[1] Laboratoire de Glaciologie et de Géophysique de l'Environnement (CNRS-Université Joseph Fourier), Grenoble, France.
[2] Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Switzerland.


Researcher :
Christian Vincent, +33 (0)4 76 82 42 47,

City of Chamonix:
Claude Marin, +33 (0)4 50 53 75 17,

Press :
Pascale Natalini, +33 (0)4 76 88 79 59,
Sébastien Buthion, +33 (0)4 72 44 56 12,
Isabelle Tratner, +33 (0)1 44 96 49 88,


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