Bedrock sculpting under an active alpine glacier revealed from cosmic-ray muon radiography

Nishiyama, R.; Ariga, A.; Ariga, T.; Lechmann, A.; Mair, David; Pistillo, C.; Scampoli, P.; Valla, P. G.; Vladymyrov, M.; Ereditato, Antonio; Schlunegger, Fritz (2019). Bedrock sculpting under an active alpine glacier revealed from cosmic-ray muon radiography. Scientific Reports, 9(1), p. 6970. Nature Publishing Group 10.1038/s41598-019-43527-6

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Mountain glaciers form landscapes with U-shaped valleys, roche moutonées and overdeepenings through bedrock erosion. However, little evidence for active glacial carving has been provided particularly for areas above the Equilibrium Line Altitude (ELA) where glaciers originate. This is mainly due to our lack of information about the shape of the bedrock underneath active glaciers in highly elevated areas. In the past years, the bedrock morphology underneath active glaciers has been studied by geophysical methods in order to infer the subglacial mechanisms of bedrock erosion. However,
these comprise surveys on the glaciers’ surface, from where it has been difficult to investigate the lateral boundary between the ice and the bedrock with sufficient resolution. Here we perform a muon- radiographic inspection of the Eiger glacier (Switzerland, European Alps) with the aid of cosmic-ray muon attenuation. We find a reach (600 × 300 m) within the accumulation area where strong lateral glacial erosion has cut nearly vertically into the underlying bedrock. this suggests that the eiger glacier has profoundly sculpted its bedrock in its accumulation area. this also reveals that the cosmic-ray muon radiography is an ideal technology to reconstruct the shape of the bedrock underneath an active glacier.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Albert Einstein Center for Fundamental Physics (AEC)
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Laboratory for High Energy Physics (LHEP)
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Mair, David, Ereditato, Antonio, Schlunegger, Fritz


500 Science > 530 Physics
500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology




Nature Publishing Group




Fritz Schlunegger

Date Deposited:

11 Jun 2019 14:51

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:28

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:





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