French Alpine Glaciers Vanishing
Glaciers down by a quarter over 40 years
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 7, 2011 12:00 AM CST
The famous Mont Blanc Massif has been shrinking more slowly than other glacial areas.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – France's glaciers have lost more than a quarter of their area in the last 40 years, and the rate of retreat appears to be accelerating, researchers warn. The 600 or so glaciers in the French Alps covered some 145 square miles in the early '70s but that was down to 106 square miles a few years ago, according to a team that used map archives, satellite imagery, and manual inspection to inventory the country's glaciers.

The team found that the greatest losses occurred in the southern Alps, where glaciers have almost disappeared from the Belledonne Massif region, the BBC reports. The shrinkage is happening more slowly in the northern Alps, where the biggest French glacier, La Mer de Glace, has shrunk by just half a square mile, to 11.5 square miles. The team's findings mirror those of other Alpine nations, including Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. (Click here to read about what's happening to Himalayan glaciers.)