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Note: This data set was first published on the 1998 CAPS CD.
The text for this document was taken unchanged from that CD.

See also Description of Data Files.

IPA Global Geocryological Database

Name of data set: Rock Glaciers, Fletschhorn Area, Valais, Switzerland Content: Position, Altitudinal Interval, Size, Orientation, Type, 1995

Details of Principal Investigators:

Regula Frauenfelder


Division for Physical Geography
Department of Geography
University of Zurich

Mailing Address:
Winterhurerstr. 190
CH-8057 Zurich

Phone: ++41 1 635 51 39
Fax: ++41 1 635 68 48

Coverage of data set:

Study location:

Fletschhorn Area, Southern Swiss Alps

Geographic extent - Describe the corners of the box representing data coverage:

Northwest latitude: 46.233 N
Northwest longitude: 7.15 E
Southeast latitude: 46.117 N
Southeast longitude: 8.117 E

Period of investigation - Years covered

Inventory of rock glaciers: summer of 1995

Summary Description - Brief details of site type, data collection, techniques, parameters (i.e. soil temperature, thaw depth, etc.), frequency of measurement, and indication of data quality. Use as many lines as necessary.

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.]
Length [m]
Width [m]
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 %)
Special remarks

Current storage of data - Mark with X as many as are appropriate, or delete those that do not apply:

CD ROM          X
Paper      X
GIS-System X
Wordprocessor file(s)     X

Datacenter: cf. organization above

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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.


  1. Fletschhorn Area, Southern Swiss Alps, Switzerland
  2. Rock Glaciers
  3. Inventory of rock glaciers
  4. Infrared air photographs
  5. Spatial modelling with GIS-system
  6. Source temperatures
  7. Vegetation analysis

Please cite these data as follows:

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, Boulder, Colorado: NSIDC, University of Colorado at Boulder.