Climate Change - the End of the Permafrost
As the earth's atmosphere warms up, ice and snow masses are shrinking. On the Zugspitze this effect can be seen with the naked eye. The glacier on the mountain has receded drastically in the past few years, and experts estimate that in one or two decades it may have disappeared altogether.
The effects of climate change are even felt below the mountain's surface. Permafrost soils that have been frozen for thousands of years are beginning to slowly thaw, even inside the peak of the Zugspitze. Scientists from the University of Bonn are trying to find out what happens when the rock warms up. In former supply tunnels, that crisscross the inside of the summit, they are studying the effects of the melting ice on the stability of the rock formations. The work suggests that the end of the permafrost may have serious consequences. The ice holds the rock together like mortar. When it melts, the rock begins to crumble, potentially setting off massive rockfall. That may be what happened 3700 years ago, at a time when atmospheric temperatures were similar to those of today, and a large part of the Zugspitze broke off and buried the north slopes of the mountain. A report by Olaf Jacobs and Klaus Dartmann.