Energy and glacier mass balance of Fürkeleferner, Italy: past, present, and future

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The energy and mass balance of mountain glaciers translate into volume changes that play out as area changes over time. From this, together with former moraines during maximum advances, information on past climate conditions and the climatic drivers behind during glacier advances can be obtained. Here, we use the distributed COupled Snowpack and Ice surface energy and mass balance model in PYthon (COSIPY) to simulate the present state of an Italian glacier, named Fürkeleferner, for the mass balance years 2013–2017. Next, we investigate the local climate during the time of the last “Little Ice Age” (LIA) maximum glacier advance using COSIPY together with the LIA glacier outline retrieved from moraine mapping and a digital elevation model (DEM) adapted for the glacier’s geometry at the time of the LIA as a benchmark. Furthermore, the glacier’s sensitivity to future air temperature increase of +1 K and +2 K is investigated using the same model. For all simulations, meteorological data of closely located climate stations are used to force the model. We show the individual monthly contribution of individual energy and mass balance components. Refreezing during the summer months is an important component of the energy and mass balance, on average about 9 % relative to total annual ablation. The results from simulating past climate show a 2.8 times larger glacier area for Fürkeleferner during the LIA than today. This further implies a 2.5 K colder climate, assuming that the amount of precipitation was 10 %–20 % in excess of today’s value. Concerning further temperature increase of 2 K, the glacier would only consist of the ablation area implying sustained mass loss and eventual total mass loss. Even under current climatic conditions, the glacier area would have to decrease to 17 % of its current area to be in a steady state. We discuss the reliability of the results by comparing simulated present mass balance to measured mass balances of neighboring glaciers in the European Alps and with short-term measurements on Fürkeleferner itself. In conclusion, we are able to show how the glacier responds to past and future climate change and determine the climatic drivers behind.

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Primary Division
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Publication Status
Published online
Eprint ID
DOI 10.3389/feart.2022.814027

Cite as
Krampe, D. , Arndt, A. and Schneider, C. (2022): Energy and glacier mass balance of Fürkeleferner, Italy: past, present, and future / M. Huss (editor) , Frontiers in Earth Science, 10 , p. 814027 . doi: 10.3389/feart.2022.814027

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