Exceptional rockfall occurred throughout the Alps during the unusually hot summer of 2003. It is likely related to the fast thermal reaction of the subsurface of steep rock slopes and a corresponding destabilization of ice-filled discontinuities. This suggests that rockfall may be a direct and unexpectedly fast impact of climate change. Based upon our measurements in Alpine rock faces, we present model simulations illustrating the distribution and degradation of permafrost where the summer of 2003 has resulted in extreme thaw. We argue that hotter summers predicted by climate models for the coming decades will result in reduced stability of many alpine rock walls. Copyright 2004 by the American Geophysical Union.

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Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1029/2004GL020051
Journal Geophysical Research Letters
Gruber, S, Hoelzle, M. (Martin), & Haeberli, W. (Wilfried). (2004). Permafrost thaw and destabilization of Alpine rock walls in the hot summer of 2003. Geophysical Research Letters, 31(13). doi:10.1029/2004GL020051