27 June, Tuesday


X-ray of Eiger glacier shows first-ever picture of ice grinding down rock

Science & Tech

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Researchers at the University of Bern have X-rayed the Eiger glacier in central Switzerland, showing for the first time on an active glacier how ice grinds down the rock, according to a recent article on science journal Geophysical Research Letters.
 
The X-rayed results gave scientists a better picture of the rock beneath the ice and changes caused by climate change.
 
The physicists and geologists installed special detectors in the tunnel of the Jungfrau railway, a nine-km meter gauge rack railway in Switzerland running from the Kleine Scheidegg Mountain to the highest railway station in Europe at Jungfraujoch. The railway runs almost entirely within the Jungfrau Tunnel.
 
The detectors enabled them to "peer under the glacier" and reconstruct in 3D the basis of the firn, or granular snow on top of a glacier, to a depth of 80 meters.
 
The glacier "X-rays" shows how the steep rock face must be the result of lateral erosion because the glacier moves parallel to the rocks, the scientists said.
 
"We can thereby show for the first time on an active glacier how ice grinds down the rock," said study leader Fritz Schlunegger.
 
The scientists warned that the frequency of rock falls will increase as the ice recedes, and given that the region was popular with tourists and visitor centers as well as a research station had been built on nearby rocks, such changes must be closely monitored.

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