Mass Balance of Hintereisferner

Hintereisferner 2006 (taken by A. Lambrecht on 12/09/2006)

Hintereisferner is a valley glacier situated in the Eastern Alps of Austria (46.80° North / 10.77°E). This glacier has been classified as one of the key ‘reference glaciers’ by the World Glacier Monitoring Service because it has received continuous long-term observations dating back to the year 1952/53. The glacier descends from 3739 m a.s.l. to 2507 m a.s.l., with the tongue located in a northeast-orientated valley while the firn area faces north, east and south. The mean air temperature (1906-2005) measured at the climate station Vent (1890 m a.s.l) was 1.6 °C and the mean annual lapse rate is 0.57 °C/100 m. The glacier is not only monitored for its mass balance but has been the key glaciological study site serving as an Open Air Laboratory (OpAL) for the ACINN since the mid 19th Century.

The glacier mass balance monitoring is carried out by ACINN, subject to a contract with the Hydrographic Service, Government of Tyrol and additionally funded by the University of Innsbruck. Area changes are detected using airborne photogrammetry and, more recently via a decade of annual airborne LIDAR-campaigns. The mass balance studies are carried out by the ACINN applying the direct glaciological method and by the Institute for Geography applying the geodetic method. You can learn more about methods of measuring glaciological mass balance from the UNESCO Glossary of Glacier Mass Balance and Related Terms. Full winter balance measurements are performed annually at the beginning of May. Ice ablation is measured at >30 operational ablation stakes which are commonly read two to six times a year - depending on the respective location. Accumulation is measured in snow pits at the end of the hydrological year in late September, and by probing to measure the depth of the annual snow layer in the accumulation area.   

The results of the mass balance studies are submitted annually to the World Glacier Monitoring Service.


In autumn 2016 a permanent terrestrial laser scanner (TLS) was installed close to the summit „Im hinteren Eis“ (3.270 m a.s.l.) in cooperation with the Institute of Geography (

Two webcams that cover the whole glacier area were installed on the container of the TLS on May 25th:

Hintereisferner - View towards Weißkugel and Langtaufererspitze

Hintereisferner - View towards Hintere Hintereisspitze

In addition, a fully equipped automatic weather station (AWS)  was installed close to the TLS position.

AWS “Im hinteren Eis” close to the TLS at appr. 3.200 m a.s.l. The 6 m tower will be equipped for flux-measurements at different levels. Photo taken by Philipp Vettori during installation on 30.8.2017.

Detailed information on the measurements is available at the ACINN on request.

Mass balance reports for Hintereisferner and Kesselwandferner (in German):

PDF icon Bericht HEF-KWF1213.pdf
Bericht HEF-KWF1314.pdf (1.57 MB)
Bericht HEF-KWF1415.pdf (2.26 MB) 
Bericht HEF-KWF1516.pdf (1.65 MB)
PDF icon Bericht HEF-KWF1617.pdf

PDF icon Bericht HEF-KWF1718.pdf (4.07 MB)

Project Leader: 
Project Duration: 
01/01/1952 to 12/31/2020