Ice loss from glaciers and permafrost and related slope instability in high-mountain regions

Philip Deline, Stephan Gruber, Florian Amann, Xavier Bodin, Reynald Delaloye, Jérôme Failletaz, Luzia Fischer, Marten Geertsema, Marco Giardino, Andreas Hasler, Martin Kirkbride, Michael Krautblatter, Florence Magnin, Samuel Mccoll, Ludovic Ravanel, Philippe Schoeneich, Samuel Weber

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    The present time is a significant stage in the adjustment of mountain slopes to climate change and specifically atmospheric warming. This review examines the state of understanding of the responses of mid-latitude alpine landscapes to recent cryospheric change and summarizes the variety and complexity of documented landscape responses involving glaciers, moraines, rock and debris slopes, and rock glaciers. These indicate how a common general forcing translates into varied site-specific slope responses according to material structures and properties, thermal and hydrological environments, process rates, and prior slope histories. Warming of permafrost in rock and debris slopes has demonstrably increased instability, manifest as rock glacier acceleration, rockfalls, debris flows, and related phenomena. Changes in glacier geometry influence stress fields in rock and debris slopes, and some failures appear to be accelerating toward catastrophic failure. Several sites now require expensive monitoring and modeling to design effective risk-reduction strategies, especially where new lakes form and multiply hazard potential, and new activities and infrastructure are developed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationSnow and Ice-Related Hazards, Risks, and Disasters
    Number of pages40
    ISBN (Print)9780128171295
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


    • Glacier shrinkage
    • Permafrost degradation
    • Rock glacier
    • Rockfall
    • Rock slide
    • Deep-seated gravitational slope deformation
    • Moraine instability
    • Debuttressing
    • Ice unloading


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