Glaciers in the Hohen Tauern

For thousands of years, glaciers have shaped the appearance of the Hohe Tauern National Park. Besides their imposing appearance, they have important functions for the environment.

Today there are more than 2,000 glaciers in the Alps with an ice volume of around 100 km², of which 342 can be found in the Hohe Tauern National Park. One can distinguish between different types of glaciers, such as cirque glaciers, slope glaciers, block glaciers, avalanche glaciers or outlet glaciers.

Glaciers form when the summer temperatures are not sufficient to melt the snow that has fallen in winter. Year after year, layers of snow accumulate, which then turn into firn and solidify into ice due to increasing pressure. Glacial ice is therefore not a rigid body and flows down into the valley due to gravity. When terrain crests are overflowed, disruptive forces arise, which are discharged by the tearing open of crevasses.

Untersulzbach | © Holiday Region National Park Hohe Tauern

The Hohe Tauern National Park is home to all different types of glaciers. The largest glacier in the National Park is the Pasterze, the valley glacier of the Großglockner. With a length of 7.5 metres and an area of 18.5 km² (as of 2002), the Pasterzen Glacier is the largest glacier in the entire Eastern Alps and is one of the "great Alpine glaciers of the world", as it reaches down from the periglacial altitudinal stage to the potential forest stage and can thus "keep up" with glaciers such as Glacier Noir or Glacier des Bossons.

Glaciers have important functions in many respects. For example, they have an influence on the water balance, an importance for energy production, influences on the microclimate and are related to natural hazards. Furthermore, they are increasingly sensitive indicators of global climate change, as glacier retreat has been observed for several decades.