Taxonomy term

alps

Mountaintops get less lonely for alpine plants

It takes a hardy plant to live on top of a mountain, but new research shows that summits in the Alps are hosting more species of plants than ever before. Long-term botany surveys conducted on 302 European mountaintops over the past 145 years show that the variety of plant species living on the harsh summits has markedly increased over the last 10 years due to climate change.

18 Jul 2018

Travels in Geology: Austria's Salzkammergut: World heritage preserved in salt

Explore stunning mountain peaks, sparkling lakes, quintessential alpine villages and the world’s oldest salt mines, along with Mozart’s hometown, in Austria’s salt district.
11 Aug 2017

On the trail of Hannibal's army - and elephants - in the Alps

In the third century B.C., during the Second Punic War between the Romans and Carthaginians, Carthaginian general Hannibal led a massive army over the Alps to invade Italy from the supposedly impenetrable north. It is one of the most famously brazen moves in military history, but the exact route that Hannibal’s army — which included tens of thousands of foot soldiers and cavalrymen, thousands of horses and nearly 40 elephants — took through the mountains has long been a mystery. Now, a team has found microbial evidence that a large number of horses crossed the Alps from France into Italy over the 3,000-meter Col de la Traversette pass around 218 B.C. But not everybody is convinced that the Traversette pass route matches detailed historical accounts of Hannibal’s journey.

24 Jul 2016

Travels in Geology: Zermatt: Europe meets Africa in Switzerland's iconic Alps

Zermatt, Switzerland, offers spectacular sightseeing, hiking, mountain climbing and skiing. The area’s popularity is rooted in its geology. 
20 Jul 2016

How deep do the Alps go?

Continental crust was long thought to be too buoyant to subduct into the mantle, unlike denser oceanic crust, which descends into the mantle in many locations around the world. But the discovery of coesite — a type of silica formed at the extreme pressures present in subduction zones — in the Alps in 1984 challenged that long-held idea. Seismic evidence backing up claims that continental crust has indeed been subducted beneath the Alps has been scant, however, until now.
26 Jan 2016

Sculpting the Alps

Mountains typically get steeper the higher you climb. The European Alps are an exception: Beginning at altitudes between about 1,500 and 2,000 meters, most slopes in the range tend to become less steep with increased elevation. This is largely caused by ancient glaciers, which scoured away much of the rock from the tops of the Alps. However, the steepness of alpine slopes also decreases in areas beyond the reach of glaciers, although the reasons why have remained elusive. New research is revealing how tectonic and fluvial forces have also helped shape the Alps’ unusual topography.
 
04 Oct 2015

Benchmarks: February 23 – 24, 1999: Alpine Avalanches sweep through Austrian towns, killing dozens

For skiers, snowboarders and other high-elevation winter adventurers, avalanches pose an ever-present, if difficult-to-anticipate, risk. But tourists and townspeople at the lower elevations and on the flatter terrain of mountain valleys are usually far from such threats. For the tiny Austrian towns of Galtür and Valzur — popular winter destinations for their ski trails and chalets — that was not the case in late February 1999.
 
03 Feb 2014

On Hannibal's Trail: The clues are in the geology

Standing at the summit of one of the Alps’ tallest mountain passes in the fall of 218 B.C., Hannibal peered into enemy territory: Italy’s Po River Valley. The panorama was reassuring. Hannibal’s plan — a sneak attack of the Romans on their own soil — was at last within reach. As his army trudged along a snow-covered path, Hannibal, Carthage’s greatest military leader, used the sight of Italy to encourage his ailing troops to keep going.

They needed the encouragement.

01 Oct 2010