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As glaciers shrink, the Alps get taller

As massive glaciers melt in the Alps, the reduction in weight on those peaks is causing them—and the entire region—to gain altitude.

Recent surveys of Alpine glaciers suggest that the ice masses as a whole are losing more than 1.5 billion tons each year, says Claudio Smiraglia, a glaciologist at the University of Milan in Italy. As glacial melt flows to the sea, immense pressures from deep within Earth that had been counterbalanced by glacial weight cause the planet's crust to spring upward. While some altitude gain occurs almost immediately, the remainder takes place over centuries.

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