Rock Glaciers in the Austrian Alps: A General Overview with a Special Focus on Dösen Rock Glacier, Hohe Tauern Range

Andreas Kellerer-Pirklbauer*, Gerhard Karl Lieb, Viktor Kaufmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Rock glaciers are prominent landforms in mountain regions and as such indicate permafrost conditions at present or in former times. So-called active rock glaciers consist of debris and ice and creep slowly downslope thereby forming flow structures with ridges and furrows. This geomorphological expression of permafrost creep is commonly preserved after the complete melt-out of the ice component of the now relict rock glacier body. Rock glaciers are widespread in the Austrian Alps, with c. 2900 relict rock glaciers containing no ice at present and c. 1700 intact rock glaciers which contain ice and indicate the widespread permafrost occurrence. A very recent inventory lists even more than 5700 rock glaciers and related landforms. One of the best studied active rock glaciers in Austria is the Dösen Rock Glacier located in the Central Austrian Alps. It has been investigated during several national and international projects since 1993, dealing with permafrost conditions and distribution, surface kinematics, internal structure and age. Significant ground surface warming of the rock glacier body occurred since 2007, accompanied by general acceleration of the rock glacier surface flow velocity. Relative age dating of the landform indicates a long and variable formation history over a period of several thousand years. Selected topics with a geomorphological focus and the relationships between permafrost and environmental conditions are communicated to the public by an educational trail which has been established at this rock glacier and its vicinity.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLandscapes and Landforms of Austria
EditorsChristine Embleton-Hamann
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-92815-5
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-92813-1
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NameWorld Geomorphological Landscapes
ISSN (Print)2213-2090
ISSN (Electronic)2213-2104


  • Dösen Valley
  • Ground temperature
  • Hohe Tauern National Park
  • Rock glacier evolution
  • Rock glacier monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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