Morteratsch Glacier

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Morteratsch Glacier
Vadret da Morteratsch
Morteratsch- und Persgletscher.jpg
The Morteratsch (right) and Pers (left) glaciers, 2005
TypeValley glacier
LocationBernina Range, Switzerland
Coordinates46°24′34″N 9°55′54″E / 46.40944°N 9.93167°E / 46.40944; 9.93167Coordinates: 46°24′34″N 9°55′54″E / 46.40944°N 9.93167°E / 46.40944; 9.93167
Area15.3 km2 (incl. Pers Glacier) (2008)
Length7 km (1973), 5.85 km (2016)
TerminusOva da Morteratsch (Danube)
Statusfast retreating

The Morteratsch Glacier (Romansh: Vadret da Morteratsch) is the largest glacier by area in the Bernina Range of the Bündner Alps in Switzerland.

It is, just after the Pasterze Glacier and Gepatschferner, the third largest and by volume (1.2 km3) the most massive glacier in the eastern alps. The Morteratsch Glacier is a typical valley glacier with a pronounced ice front. The accumulation zone lies between the peaks of Piz Morteratsch, Piz Bernina, Crast' Agüzza, Piz Argient, Piz Zupò and Bellavista. From Piz Argient to the ice front in the Val Morteratsch, its horizontal extent is less than ~6 km (3.7 mi), with an altitude difference of up to 2,000 m (6,600 ft).

Together with the Pers Glacier, originating at Piz Palü, which joins the Morteratsch just below the rock formation Isla Persa ("Lost Isle"), as of 1973 it covered an area of about 16 km2 (6.2 sq mi). The volume of the ice is estimated to be about 1.2 km3. The Morteratsch Glacier drains through the Inn and the Danube into the Black Sea.

In spring, depending on the snow conditions, a 10-km-long ski-run accessible to skilled skiers is marked on the glacier. It leads from the Diavolezza aerial tramway terminus to the Morteratsch inn and has an altitude difference of 1,100 m (3,600 ft). The RhB railway Station Morteratsch used to be situated directly at the ice front of the glacier. The ice front has receded over 2,800 m (9,200 ft) in the meantime (as of 2016), and can no longer be seen from the station.

Yearly length change measurements have been recorded since 1878. For the period to 1998, the overall retreat was over 1.8 km (1.1 mi) with a mean annual retreat rate of approximately 17.2 m (56 ft) per year. This long-term average has markedly increased in recent years, receding 30 m (98 ft) per year from 1999–2005. Substantial retreat was ongoing through 2006 as well.[1]. During the last ten years, it lost another 1 kilometre (0.62 mi).[2]

During the time that measurements have been taken, the glacier has advanced a few meters in only four years. Since the large glaciers react slowly to short-term climate changes, these advances cannot be accounted for by increased precipitation in the accumulation zone in the previous winter.{cn} On the high moraines to the left and right of the ice front, which are still nearly free of overgrowth, the enormous quantities of ice which were still being pushed down here at the end of the "Little Ice Age" in the middle of the 19th century can be seen.

View of the Morteratsch Glacier from the ski run

In 2017, researchers began developing a snowmaking system to protect the glacier's ice,[3] with a goal of covering square kilometer in 13 feet of snow.[4] It was estimated that a decade of use might make a difference in length of 400-500 meters.[5]

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See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Glaciers online: Morteratsch". Glaciers online. Retrieved 18 January 2007.
  2. ^ "Welcome to the Glacier Monitoring in Switzerland (GLAMOS)" (research site). Zurich, Fribourg, Berne, Switzerland: ETH Zurich, University of Fribourg, University of Zurich. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  3. ^ Coghlan, Andy (2 May 2017). "Plan to regrow receding Swiss glacier by blowing artificial snow". New Scientist. Retrieved 26 October 2019.
  4. ^ Fecht, Sarah (3 May 2017). "Artificial snow might save a glacier in the Swiss Alps". Popular Science. Retrieved 26 October 2019.
  5. ^ Amanda, Evengaard (23 November 2017). "A Swiss Community Fights to Save their Glacier". GlacierHub. Retrieved 26 October 2019.