Record summer temperatures in Switzerland have heightened the danger of mountain rockslides, warns the Federal Office for the Environment. Several regions have already experienced higher than normal rockfall events in recent weeks.
Earlier this week a huge rockslide was observed in the Val Ferret area, bordering Italy, in the French-speaking canton Valais. Cantons Uri and Graubünden have also seen above average rock displacement, which represents a threat to mountaineers and hikers.
The record-breaking heat of the summer in Switzerland has been identified as the culprit, melting the permafrost that usually binds the rocks together. "Because the summer was so hot, there is still a lot of warmth in the ground," environment office geologist Hugo Raetzo told Swiss Public Television.
Climbers have been warned to take extra care this year, particularly at higher altitudes. Experts say the risks will remain until at least November when falling temperatures are expected to provide some respite by boosting permafrost.
In addition to the dangers posed to people, the alpine instability could also have an economic cost. Two Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) huts, extremely popular with hikers and mountaineers, have been closed already as a precaution.
The Etzli hut in canton Uri, central Switzerland, expects a decline in turnover of up to 20% in the long term if the conditions persist year after year.