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Combination of historical and modern data to decipher the geomorphic evolution of the Innere Ölgruben rock glacier, Kaunertal, Austria, over almost a century (1922–2021)


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Fleischer, Fabian ; Haas, Florian ; Altmann, Moritz ; Rom, Jakob ; Knoflach, Bettina ; Becht, Michael:
Combination of historical and modern data to decipher the geomorphic evolution of the Innere Ölgruben rock glacier, Kaunertal, Austria, over almost a century (1922–2021).
In: Permafrost and periglacial processes. 34 (2022) 1. - S. 3-21.
ISSN 1045-6740 ; 1099-1530


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Rock glaciers are cryo-conditioned downslope-creeping landforms in high mountains. Their dynamics are changing due to external factors influenced by climate change. Although there has been a growing scientific interest in mountain permafrost and thus in rock glaciers in recent years, their historical development, especially before the first alpine-wide aerial image flights in the 1950s, has hardly been researched. Therefore, we utilize a historical stereophotogrammetric map from 1922 and historical flow velocity profiles (1938–1953) and relate them to data derived from historical aerial photographs and airborne laser scanning data in several time slices between 1953 and 2021. By doing so, the development of flow velocity, surface elevation changes, and frontal advance of the two lobes of the composite rock glacier Inner Ölgrube, Kaunertal, Austria, is analyzed and compared over almost a century. Results indicate an increased frontal advance in the laterally confined area of one lobe and a severe subsidence in the upper area of both lobes between 1922 and 1953. Whereas the former could be explained by a combination of the short warm phase in the 1940s and 1950s and the (subsurface) topography, the latter might be attributed to the strong melting of superimposed debris-covered dead ice bodies, a relict of the Little Ice Age (LIA) glaciation. Both factors might also contribute to the increased flow velocities between 1938 and 1953, which are still recognizable in the 1953–1970 time step. Although both lobes follow a general similar trend, which is in line with the alpine-wide trend of flow velocity acceleration in the 1990s, differences in the geomorphic development of the two lobes were identified. In addition to a slightly varying evolution of the flow velocities, the timing and magnitude of the volume changes are different. Furthermore, both lobes display a dissimilar mechanism of frontal advance over the entire study period. Because the external forcing is identical, the varying development might be attributed to variations in internal structure, bedrock topography, or upslope connection of the lobes. Due to the lateral constriction, the subsurface topography, and the LIA maximum extent of the glacier, it is assumed that the geomorphic development of the Innere Ölgruben rock glacier, particularly before 1953, represents a special case, and the results are not simply transferable to other rock glaciers.

Weitere Angaben

Schlagwörter:Central Eastern Alps; historical map; mountain permafrost; rock glacier kinematics
Sprache des Eintrags:Englisch
Institutionen der Universität:Mathematisch-Geographische Fakultät > Geographie > Lehrstuhl für Physische Geographie
DOI / URN / ID:10.1002/ppp.2178
Open Access: Freie Zugänglichkeit des Volltexts?:Ja
Die Zeitschrift ist nachgewiesen in:
Titel an der KU entstanden:Ja
Eingestellt am: 20. Dez 2022 14:57
Letzte Änderung: 15. Feb 2023 10:23
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