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Supplements of Geografia Fisica e Dinamica Quaternaria
Volume V - 2001


Proceedings of the 8th Italian Glaciological Meeting


Recent Brenva rock avalanches (valley of Aosta): new chapter in an old story? – Le recenti “rock avalanches” della Brenva (Valle d’Aosta): un nuovo capitolo in una vecchia storia?

Pages 55-63


Two rock avalanches have affected the Brenva Glacier (Mont Blanc Massif, Italy) in the zo”" Century, in 1920 and 1997. The low-friction substrate offered by the glacier caused excessive run -out distances, and both avalanches reached the valley floor. In both cases, vertical and horizontal travel distances exceeding respectively 2 and 5 km were attained. The 1920 deposit on the glacier caused an advance unti ll 1940, the only one of this kind in the Alps. These ro ck avalanches, each triggered by 2-3 x 106ml rockfall, occured during opposite phases of the glacial cycle (advance in 1920, retreat in 1997), but a large part of the mobilized rock and ice mass was spread on the distal side of the right-lateral moraine in both events. Historical and mainly geomorphological evidences suggest that several rock avalanches have occured during the Holocene. The most recent, except those of this century, might have taken place in the 14 th Century. These rockfalls might be in relation with the modification of rockwall permafrost due to the global warming (+ 0.50 °C during the 20′h Century, + 1.25 °C in the Alps) , although the understanding of this possible link remains insufficient.

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