Huge decrease of frost frequency in the Mont-Blanc Massif under climate change

Abstract : Mountains are a sensitive indicator of climate change and these areas are an early glimpse of what could happen in lowland environments. Peaking at 4808 m asl, the Mont-Blanc summit, at the boundary between France and Italy, is the highest of the Alps, in Western Europe. Its Massif is world-famous for outdoor and extreme sport activities, especially since the 1924 Olympic games held in Chamonix. Here, we use a novel statistical downscaling approach to regionalize current and future climate change over the Mont-Blanc Massif at an unequalled spatial resolution of 200 m. The algorithm is applied to daily minimum and maximum temperature derived from global climate models used in the fifth assessment report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This new high-resolution database allows for a precise quantification of frost occurrence and its evolution until 2100. In the winter season and by the end of the 21st century, under a pessimistic scenario (RCP8.5), frost frequency in the morning could decrease by 30–35 percentage points in the valley of Chamonix, and in the afternoon, similar changes could occur for elevations comprised between 2000 and 3000 m. In summertime, changes are even larger, reaching a huge drop of 45–50 points in the afternoon between 3500 and 4500 m. These changes are much reduced under an optimistic scenario. They could have huge impacts on the environment (glacier shrinking, permafrost degradation, floods, changes in the distribution of species and ecosystems) and societies (summer tourism for climbing and hiking, and winter tourism for skiing).
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Benjamin Pohl, Daniel Joly, Julien Pergaud, Jean-François Buoncristiani, Paul Soare, et al.. Huge decrease of frost frequency in the Mont-Blanc Massif under climate change. Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, 2019, 9 (1), pp.4919. ⟨10.1038/s41598-019-41398-5⟩. ⟨hal-02074047⟩

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