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Rapid disintegration of Alpine glaciers observed with satellite data


Paul, F; Kääb, A; Maisch, M; Kellenberger, T; Haeberli, W (2004). Rapid disintegration of Alpine glaciers observed with satellite data. Geophysical Research Letters, 31(21):L21402.

Abstract

Analyses of multispectral satellite data indicate accelerated glacier decline around the globe since the 1980s. By using digitized glacier outlines inferred from the 1973 inventory and Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) satellite data from 1985 to 1999, we obtained area changes of about 930 Alpine glaciers. The 18% area reduction as observed for the period 1985 to 1999 (−1.3% a⁻¹) corresponds to a seven times higher loss rate compared to the 1850–1973 decadal mean. Extrapolation of area change rates and cumulative mass balances to all Alpine glaciers yields a corresponding volume loss of about 25 km³ since 1973. Highly individual and non-uniform changes in glacier geometry (disintegration) indicate a massive down-wasting rather than a dynamic response to a changed climate. Our results imply stronger ongoing glacier retreat than assumed so far and a probable further enhancement of glacier disintegration by positive feedbacks.

Analyses of multispectral satellite data indicate accelerated glacier decline around the globe since the 1980s. By using digitized glacier outlines inferred from the 1973 inventory and Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) satellite data from 1985 to 1999, we obtained area changes of about 930 Alpine glaciers. The 18% area reduction as observed for the period 1985 to 1999 (−1.3% a⁻¹) corresponds to a seven times higher loss rate compared to the 1850–1973 decadal mean. Extrapolation of area change rates and cumulative mass balances to all Alpine glaciers yields a corresponding volume loss of about 25 km³ since 1973. Highly individual and non-uniform changes in glacier geometry (disintegration) indicate a massive down-wasting rather than a dynamic response to a changed climate. Our results imply stronger ongoing glacier retreat than assumed so far and a probable further enhancement of glacier disintegration by positive feedbacks.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:November 2004
Deposited On:20 Jul 2012 22:47
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:51
Publisher:American Geophysical Union
ISSN:0094-8276
Publisher DOI:10.1029/2004GL020816
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-62854

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