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IPA Global Geocryological Database
Division for Physical Geography
Department of Geography
University of Zurich
Phone: ++41 1 635 51 39
Fax: ++41 1 635 68 48
Fletschhorn Area, Southern Swiss Alps
Northwest latitude: 46.233 N
Northwest longitude: 7.15 E
Southeast latitude: 46.117 N
Southeast longitude: 8.117 E
Inventory of rock glaciers: summer of 1995
The Fletschhorn Area is located in the southern Swiss Alps. A high mountain chain, with peaks rising over 4000 m a.s.l. subdivides the region into two parts: the Saas valley on the western slopes of the mountain range and the Simplon region on its eastern slopes. Climatically the whole region is characterized by local continental climate, characterized by low precipitation coupled with higher amplitudes of temperature. Nevertheless glaciers are abundant, though - due to the climatic conditions - they show small mass turnovers and reach only medium sizes. Practically all important processes and forms of the periglacial realm in the Alps (e.g. rock glaciers, perennial snow patches, solifluction forms, etc.) can be found in the area. The data set contains a total amount of 74 rock glaciers which were investigated during the summer of 1995. The thorough investigation included: analysis of infrared air photographs, mapping of the rock glaciers, measurement of their aspect, slope and size, measurements of the water temperature of sources in the vicinity or at the snout of the rock glaciers, analysis of the vegetation cover on the rock glaciers (species, coverage). The analysis of the above mentioned parameters revealed, that 32 of the investigated rock glaciers are active, 21 show signs of inactivity (either due to decreasing ice content or due to dynamic stability), 27 are to be considered as fossil objects.
The following parameters were measured and are included in the described data set:
Location (longitude and latitude)
Elevation of the front [m a.s.l.]
Activity (active, inactive or fossil)
Source temperatures [C]
Vegetation cover (covered, sporadic or none)
Additional data that has been measured (not included in the data set on the CD):
Rock glacier type
Analysis of the vegetation composition (species, coverage in %)
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Frauenfelder, R. (1997, unpubl.) Permafrostuntersuchungen mit GIS - Eine Studie im Fletschhorngebiet. Diploma thesis at the Geographical Institute of the University of Zurich. 77 p.
Frauenfelder, R. (1998, submitted.) Permafrost Investigations with GIS - A Case Study in the Fletschhorn Area, Wallis, Swiss Alps. Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Permafrost, Yellowknife, Canada.
Frauenfelder, R. 1998. Rock Glaciers, Fletschhorn Area, Valais, Switzerland. In: International Permafrost Association, Data and Information Working Group, comp. Circumpolar Active-Layer Permafrost System (CAPS), version 1.0. CD-ROM available from National Snow and Ice Data Center, firstname.lastname@example.org. Boulder, Colorado: NSIDC, University of Colorado at Boulder.