EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Teleconnections and a holistic Earth Systems approach to a retreating Alpine glacier

Dan Le Heron1, Charlie Bristow2, Bethan Davies3, Bernhard Grasemann1, Christoph Kettler1, and Martin Schöpfer1
Dan Le Heron et al.
  • 1University of Vienna, Faculty for Geography, Earth Sciences and Astronomy, Institute for Geology, Vienna, Austria (
  • 2Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Birkbeck University of London, Malet Street, Bloomsbury, London, UK
  • 3Department of Geography, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, Surrey, UK

The Gepatschferner in the Öztal Alps is Austria’s second largest glacier and is the subject of a monitoring campaign from 2019 onwards which was initially focussed on sedimentology and geomorphology of the forefield. Emphasis was placed on the styles and rates of sediment cannibalisation, with implications for transcription of the evidence into the deep time sedimentary record. This included the mapping of flutes, crag and tail structures, roches moutonées, fluvial sediments, till and rockfall deposits in the proglacial area. Their evolution over time is documented by repeated fieldwork and drone surveys. However, cognizant of the complexity of the subglacial environment (deforming bed areas, rigid bed areas and shifting meltwater systems) our work has expanded to ground-penetrating radar (GPR) surveys, enabling us to map subglacial conduits, englacial channels, and glacier structure. This structure involves the mapping of foliation, folds and fractures in the glacier, supported by field measurements. Repeated survey of both GPR and drones allows the 4D evolution of surficial glacier drainage, elevation, and forefield to be characterised. This work thus encompasses sedimentology, geomorphology, structural glaciology and bedrock geology. We argue that investigating the temporal and spatial landsystem-scale interactions between cryosphere (glacier and its structure), hydrosphere (meltwater pathways), and lithosphere (geomorphology, bedrock geology, sedimentology) will lead to breakthrough interpretations. These will include (i) controls on the evolution of the meltwater system, (ii) controls on the genesis of subglacial bedforms, (iii) the relationship between geology, geomorphology and glacier structure. Repeated, iterative surveys allow us to explore the teleconnections between cryosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere, and their predictive capacity.

How to cite: Le Heron, D., Bristow, C., Davies, B., Grasemann, B., Kettler, C., and Schöpfer, M.: Teleconnections and a holistic Earth Systems approach to a retreating Alpine glacier, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-11255,, 2022.