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25 December 2011

Salzkammergut Region, Eastern Alps

(Click in image for larger view.)

The Alps form a great crescent-shaped ridge extending from the Mediterranean to Austria. Toward the eastern end of this mountain range lies an Austrian resort area known as Salzkammergut, where towering peaks alternate with narrow valleys and serpentine lakes.

This perspective view of Salzkammergut was acquired by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite on June 22, 2003. It was then draped over an ASTER digital elevation model (DEM). This view looks toward the west, with north toward the lower right. Vegetation is bright green, rock is purple-gray, water is blue, and snow and ice are white.

Settlements dot the well-vegetated valleys, but mountains dominate the landscape. The mountain-building process that created the Alps was complex, and lasted tens of millions of years. Part of the process involved a collision between Europe and Africa, so the Alps contain segments of continental crust from both continents. Many of the mountains in the Salzkammergut region are actually composed of karst—carbonate rocks weathered by water. Inside these mountains are complicated networks of karst caves.

Human activity in this region dates back to the Bronze Age. Settlers used high pastures for sheep and cattle grazing, and began the systematic production of salt. At first, locals collected natural brine in vessels, and allowed the water to evaporate. Underground salt mining began late in the Bronze Age, and continued intermittently through the Middle Ages.

The beauty of the landscape combined with the settlement’s history have made this region a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.


ASTER. (2010, November 23). Hallstatt, Austria. Accessed October 14, 2011.
British Museum. Bronze Age. Accessed October 14, 2011.
Environmental Science Institute. What is Karst? University of Texas at Austin. Accessed October 14, 2011.
Geosciences. The Alps. University of Arizona. Accessed October 14, 2011.
World Heritage. (2011). Hallstatt-Dachstein / Salzkammergut Cultural Landscape. UNESCO. Accessed October 14, 2011.
NASA image courtesy of GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and the U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team. Caption by Michon Scott.

Terra - ASTER - NASA