Since the end of the Little Ice Age around 1850 CE glaciers in the Alps have been receding dramatically. This study aimed to quantify and characterize the geomorphic and landform changes of a 0.9 km2 large proglacial area at the largest glacier in Austria (Pasterze Glacier, Austria, N 47°04′ E 12°44′). Point clouds from multiple terrestrial laserscanning (TLS) and different image data were used to quantify surface elevation changes and distinguish different types of erosional and depositional landforms during the period 2010–2013. Results indicate that the study area is characterized by a total volume loss of 1,309,000 m3. Excluding the area which was deglaciated, the volume loss equals 275,000 m3 in the period 2010–13. The decrease is related to sediment transfer out of study area and due to sediment-buried glacier ice which is slowly melting. The landform classification reveals that drift mantled slopes are most frequent (20.9% of the study area in 2013) next to ice contact terrace landforms (19.7%). In terms of vertical surface elevation changes, our results suggest distinguishing between 3 distinct domains within the study area: (i) a flat valley bottom area consisting of water/sandur areas and ice-cored landforms dominated by widespread subsurface ice melting and lateral fluvial (and thermal) erosion; (ii) a gently-sloping footslope area consisting of ice-contact sediments, former ice marginal channels and deep incised gullies with corresponding debris cones dominated by linear erosion and corresponding deposition; and (iii) a steep lateral slope area mainly built up of consolidated drift material with incised gullies dominated by linear erosion. Our results not only confirm the previously revealed high geomorphic activity for proglacial areas of alpine glaciers in terms of surface elevation variations, they also highlight that landforms might change substantially from one year to the next not only because of erosional/depositional processes, but also because of the melting of buried dead-ice bodies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- !!Earth-Surface Processes