Rock glacier on a Swiss mountainside

Rock glacier on a Swiss mountainside

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Credit: MICHAEL SZOENYI/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Rock glacier on a mountainside in Grisons, Switzerland. A rock glacier is unrelated to a glacier, instead being a deformation of the surface, seen here stretching from centre left to lower right. Rock glaciers form when soil is saturated with ice in a permafrost region. The soil is able to deform, and can flow slowly down slopes under gravity. Climate warming poses significant hazards in such regions, as melting of the permafrost can destabilise large areas of debris, increasing the risk of avalanches and landslides. The village of Pontresina, down the valley from this rock glacier, has built numerous protective measures against such hazards.

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Keywords: alps, climate change, environment, europe, european, geographical, geography, geological, geology, geomorphology, global warming, grisons, ice, icy, melting, mountain, permafrost, rock glacier, slipping, slope, snow, subsidence, subsiding, switzerland, thaw, thawing

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