Disaster Tourism: See Global Warming in Progress
Hansruedi Burgener, the owner of a cabin with prime seats to view the collapse of a piece of the north wall of the Eiger peak is happy for the uptick in tourism. But he says: "We would also have made a living without the rock coming down," and the extra dollars are little compensation for seeing the beloved mountain valley suffer from the changing weather. "It’s going rapidly, with the glacier disappearing, the moraines are getting bigger, the streams coming down are enormous. And it hasn’t rained; it’s all meltwater." Every day now, visitors see chunks of rock crumbling from a piece of mountain twice the volume of the Empire State Building which is expected to separate from the cliff wall any day now.Hans-Rudolf Keusen has been studying the area since he noted a fissure opening up, and he believes the cracking is an indirect effect of global warming. The glacier supporting this part of the rock is dwindling, leading to the inevitable erosion of the cliff face. Whether the chunk of mountain tumbles down in one piece or makes a smaller bang remains to be seen. The good news: no villages nor homes lie in the path of the falling rock. Erosion is historically a problem and a previous rock slide was responsible for one of Switzerland's most serious disasters when it swept away an entire village. So global warming non-believers could say this is nothing new. But those who watch the mountains are focusing now on evidence that the rate of change is significantly increasing.