Gornergletscher and the Matterhorn

January 31, 2018


Photographer: Renata Hari 
Summary Authors: Renata Hari; Jim Foster

January 2018 Viewer's ChoiceShown above at bottom left is the retreating Gornergletscher (Gorner Glacier) in Switzerland with the attention-getting Matterhorn (14,692 ft or 4,478 m) in the background at right. My daughter and I were hiking near Zermatt and climbed down toward Gornergletscher so we could snap this photo (altitude of 5,290 ft or 1,612 m). As recently as 50 years ago, the now barren flanks of the valley in the foreground (and mid-ground as well) were buried under glacial ice. Since about this time, however, the glacier has been in full retreat.

It should be noted, though, that the Gornergletscher reached its maximum length during the Little Ice Age, with significant advances during the middle of the 17th century and again in the middle of the 19th century. Approximately 2,000 years ago and also in the early 11th century it's believed that the glacier retreated about 3,300 ft (nearly 1,000 m) from positions measured at maximum extent. In essence, there was no Gornergletscher during these periods. However, even though alpine glaciers had advanced and retreated with some regularity during the Holocene, the accelerated retreat since the middle of the 20th century is extraordinary.

Photo Details: Camera: Nokia Lumia 520; Exposure Time: 0.0010s (1/980): Aperture: ƒ/2.4; ISO equivalent: 100.