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Glacier (called "Kees" in the provinces of Salzburg, Carinthia and East Tirol, "Ferner" in North Tirol), large mass of ice accumulating above the snowline (in Austria at an altitude of approximately 2,900m), moving slowly downhill and ending in a snout below the snowline (at about 2,100m), where it melts away as fast as it arrives. Most glaciers in Austria are found in the Central Alps, their number decreasing from West to East. Today, 925 glaciers cover a total surface about 540 km2 in Austria. The highest concentration of glaciers is found in the Ötztal Alps (213 glaciers, 173 km2) and in the Venediger massif, which is part of the Hohe Tauern Mountain range (101 glaciers, 90 km2. Since 1850, glaciers in Austria have been melting away steadily and rapidly. The largest and best known Austrian glacier is Pasterze glacier in the Großglockner mountain range in the province of Carinthia (about 19 km2). Gepatsch glacier in the Ötztal Alps in the province of Tirol is slightly smaller (17 km2). The glaciers situated furthest to the north and east of Austria are the glaciers of the Dachstein mountains. The abundance of topographic features in the Austrian landscape is the result of glaciation during the Ice Age when glaciers shaped the wide valleys, cirques, and basins of mountain lakes, moraine ridges etc. through erosion and transportation of rock debris. Apart from attracting many tourists, glaciers are important water reservoirs. Numerous mountain rivers and reservoirs of hydroelectric power stations are fed by the melt-water of glaciers. However, glaciers have also caused severe flooding in periods of bad climatic conditions (e.g. in the Ötztal valley) and severely affected medieval gold mining, e.g. around Sonnblick mountain. Austrian scientists have greatly contributed to the development of glaciology and are still considered leading experts in this field.
Literature: G. Groß, Der Flächenverlust der Gletscher in Österreich, in: Zeitschrift für Gletscher-Kunde und Glazialgeologie 23, 1987.