May 5, 2013
Sulztalferner Retreat, Stubaier Alps, Austria
Posted by Mauri Pelto
Sulztalferner is a glacier in the Subaier Alps of Austsria. The glacier begins at 3200 m below peak and descends north from the peak of Daunkogel. Below is the glacier in a 2000 Google Earth image. In each of the images the purple arrow indicates a comparatively level area of the glacier below an icefall at 2700 meters. The red arrow indicates this icefall, the yellow arrow indicates the 1937 terminus, and K indicates a bedrock knob. Schlicker (2006) identified that between 1969 and 2003, 14 of the 88 glaciers in this range disappeared. The area of the glaciers waas to 54.1 km2 in 1969, increased slightly to 54.4 km2 in 1985, decreased to 47.2 km2 in 1997 and the a rpaid decline to 36.9 km2 in 2003. The retreat between 1969 and 2003 was 32% of the 1969 area. Schlicker (2006) observed that the area of Sulztal Ferner, one of the largest glaciers in the region, decreased from 4.16 km2 in 1969 to 3.51 km2 in 2003. This fits the pattern of all Austrian glaciers ( Lambrecht and Kuhn (2007) and Abbermann et al (2009) and the nearby Stubai Glacier. Here we examine the changes in Sulztalferner from 1937 to 2011. Nicholas Fisher, provided a 1937 map of the glacier indicating the extent of the glacier, that was 3.5 km long and ended at 2350 m. By 1985 the glacier had retreated 700 m.
The glacier retreat was slow but steady from 1985-2000 totaling 100 m. From 2000 to 2010 the World Glacier Monitoring Service reports the retreat at 326 m, or 33 m per year. The annual fluctuations are measured by the Austrian Alpine Club’s glacier terminus survey, which fourn a retreat of 27 m in 2012. The most notable change from 2000 to 2011 is the near total loss of the glacier tongue beneath the 2700 m icefall. Further there is a separation between the glacier above the icefall and this shrinking detached terminus tongue in 2010. The terminus tongue in 2000 below the icefall had a length of 540 m. This is now separate from the main glacier and will quickly melt completely away.
The thin nature of the ice flowing down the lower icefall at 2700 m is evident in a picture of the glacier from Steffen. The red arrow indicates the point at which the glacier separates in 2010.