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          These three images show Waxeggkees Glacier and Berliner Hütte in the Zemmgrund (the valley of the Zemmbach) in the upper reaches of the Zillertal (the Ziller valley) above Mayrhofen in the Austrian land of Tirol. The upper two images are from postcards dated 1912 and 1933, and the lower image is from a slide taken in 2003.

          The three images show the extent to which the Waxeggkees receded between the early 1900s and 2003. The valley glacier of the Waxeggkees can be seen behind Berliner Hütte in the upper two images and consists of ice flowing down from the upper reaches of the glacier. In the 2003 image, there is no such flowing valley glacier at all. Instead, the till that previously underlay the glacier is visible, as is a large area of gray bedrock that was likewise covered by the glacier. Only at the white in the upper reaches of the image is there still any glacier. Another image from a lower vantage point shows the U-shaped trough between the lateral moraines left behind by the receding glacier.

          The significance of sequential images like these documenting glacial retreat is that they provide natural non-instrumental evidence of global warming. Skeptics of global warming argue that world climate is not getting warmer, and that instrumental (thermometer) records of rising temperatures are only the result of increasing temperatures at busy airports and in urban heat islands. Retreating glaciers, however, are not at airports or in urban heat islands, and so cannot by so easily dismissed by those skeptics. The retreat of these glaciers, which is widespread around the world, is independent evidence of global warming.

 

 

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Acknowledgments: The two postcards from which the 1912 and 1933 images come were kindly loaned to me by Mr. Barry Vaughan. The walk from Breitlaner to Berliner Hütte to take the 2003 picture was fueled by the wonderful breakfast provided by Frau Heidi Eberl of Gästehaus Wasserfälle in Mayrhofen.


This page is part of the Tirol Glacier Image Collection Project.


e-mail to Railsback (rlsbk@gly.uga.edu)
Railsback's Alpine & Glacial Geology course web page
Railsback's main web page
UGA Geology Department web page