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Ice Caves

There's been much talk about the effects of global warming on the world's polar ice caps, but we recently discovered a pretty amazing fact about some ice caves in Austria, the Eisriesenwelt. Rather than disintegrating, as you might expect,
they're expanding.

The Eisriesenwelt ('World of the Ice Giants') caves at Werfen in the Tennengebirge mountains, near the Austrian city of Salzburg, are said to be the largest in the world. And the quantity of ice inside the caves has actually grown by a third in the last hundred years, most of which has been in the last two decades.

The ice caves, located high above sea level, are created when water drips through crevices into the freezing caverns and gusts of air shape them. The caves remain below zero even in the height of summer, so in some ways the warmer weather (and increase in dripping water) is helping to make the ice sculptures even more dramatic.

Whether this remains the same in years to come, especially if the temperature stays permanently high and snowfall decreases, is impossible to know. As a result the future of the caves is uncertain.

The caves were discovered by Austrian natural scientist Anton Posselt in 1879. In 1920, climbing routes to the caves were established. In 1955, a cable car was built on the steepest part of the climb. Today, you can drive or take the cable car – and, although there are some steep steps, the visit is apparently well worth the effort. Just wrap up warm.

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