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  • Jeff Baierlein

Glacier Collapse in Italian Alps Kills Six, Highlights Climate Change Link to Outdoor Safety

Record-high temperatures preceded fatal ‘ice avalanche’

On July 3, 2022, a section of a glacier on the Marmolada, the highest mountain in the Italian alps, collapsed. At least six people were killed, and eight were injured.

The incident occurred in the Dolomites, a spectacularly beautiful mountain range in Italian alps crossing Trento and Veneto, and popular with tourists and mountain explorers. The collapse occurred near Punta Rocca (Rock Point), where the standard route to the summit is located.

The collapse came from a serac, or pinnacle of glacial ice, when it detached from the main body of the glacier.

Italy’s National Alpine and Cave Rescue Corps used helicopters and dogs to help with the rescue. Rescuers inventoried license plates in the parking lot to see who might have been caught in the mass of ice, snow and rock that came down with a huge roar and slammed into hikers.

The Servizio Urgenza Emergenza Medica (SUEM) dispatch service, based in Veneto, said that 18 people who were above the area where the ice struck will be evacuated by the Alpine rescue corps.

Some hikers might have been able to self-evacuate using the cable car that runs to the top of the mountain.

Location of glacier collapse. Credit (this & top photo): Corpo Nazionale Soccorso Alpino e Speleologico

A heat wave in the area raised temperatures on the Marmolada to 10 degrees C (50 degrees F), leading to snow melt on the glacier.

Walter Milan, a spokesperson for the Alpine rescue service, said, “The heat is unusual…that’s extreme heat.” He continued, “Clearly it’s something abnormal.”

"The temperatures of these days clearly had influence" on the glacial collapse, said Maurizio Fugatti, the president of Trento Province bordering Marmolada.

Authorities expect further collapses on the shrinking and melting glacier.

Read more about the link between climate change and increasing risks in the outdoors:

The Dolomites in Italy are a popular destination for outdoor recreation.


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