The fascination of ice
The world of ice at the Hintertux glacier is a true miracle of nature, that enchants every visitor to this unique visual backdrop. Most people know that you can even ski and snowboard on the Hintertux glacier during the summer. Many people are probably aware of the fact that snow turns into ice after a certain period. But there are few who actually know what it looks like inside the ice giant.
Glaciers have a past
The snow of yesterday turns into ice and moves within the glacier from the surface area down into the core below. It is there that we find the oldest ice – up to 1,000 years old on the Hintertux glacier. The duration of an ice particle‘s journey from the Firn region to terminus of an alpine glacier depends on the size of the glacier and can range from anything between 100 to 1,000 years! The ice at the Hintertux Glacier is between 500 and 1,000 years old.
A deep glacier
The Hintertux glacier is up to 120 m deep in places. The Gefrorene Wand Kees and Großes Riepenkees area covers around 6.3 km². From Gefrorene Wand (3250 m) up to the Tuxer Fernerhaus (2660 m), the glacier is 4.1 km in length. The Hintertux glacier consists of about 190 million cubic metres of ice – in turn corresponds 171 billion litres of water.
Glaciers move at varying speeds depending on the underlying terrain; for example over rocky ridges or around corners. These accelerations in glacier speed cause tension and can initiate a crevasse at or near the glacier‘s surface. The average depth of a crevasse in alpine glaciers is usually about 30 metres.
The Life of a Glacier
The existence and survival of glaciers depends long term on a fine balance of sustenance. In the accumulation area more snow remains lying on the ground than actually melts. After about 10 years the compacted crystals of Firn snow turn into watertight ice. The former snow now has a density of approx. 900 kg/m3 and can be termed as glacial ice. In comparison, water has a density of 1,000 kg/m3. Surprisingly, air temperature in summer is not a decisive factor regarding glacial melt – up to two thirds is caused by natural radiation! Rocks ranging in a size of approx. 15 cm and upwards actually protect the glacier from solar rays. Smaller stones are heated up by the sun and sink into the top layer of ice forming cylindrical melt holes, known as cryoconite holes. For this reason it is very important that it snows often in summer on the Hintertux Glacier, so the glacier surface is white and damaging sun rays are reflected.
Glaciers are in a state of movement
According to the size of the glacier and climate conditions, alpine glaciers shift between 1 m and 200 m annually. Glaciers in Greenland and the Antarctic can move thousands of metres per year!
Shifts of up to 60 metres per year have been measured at the Hintertux Glacier. 61 supporting struts of our facilities stand on glacial ice. Because of the movement of the glaciers, the locations of these facilities move and have therefore have to be constantly repositioned, sometimes up to three times in a year.