THE FLUCTUATIONS OF ITALIAN GLACIERS DURING THE LAST CENTURY: A CONTRIBUTION TO KNOWLEDGE ABOUT ALPINE GLACIER CHANGES

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Abstract:

ABSTRACT.

This paper describes the recent evolution of Italian glaciers through an analysis of all available terminus fluctuation data that the authors have entered in a glaciers database (named GLAD) containing 883 records collected on glaciers from 1908 to 2002. Furthermore, a representative subset of data (249 glaciers located in Lombardy) was analysed regarding surface area changes.

For the analysis of terminus fluctuations, the glaciers were sorted by size classes according to length. The data showed that during the 20th century Italian Alpine glaciers underwent a generalized retreat, with one distinct and well documented readvance episode that occurred between the 1970s and mid-1980s, and a poorly documented one around the early 1920s. The rates of terminus advance and retreat have changed without significant delays for the larger glaciers with respect to the smaller ones. However, the smaller the glacier, the more limited the advance (if any) during the 1970s and early 1980s. The behaviour of glaciers shorter than 1 km appears to have changed in the last decade, and between 1993 and 2002 they retreated at a very high rate.

The analysis of the subset of data led to a quanti-fication of surface reduction of c. 10% from 1992 to 1999 for glaciers in Lombardy. Small glaciers proved to contribute strongly to total area loss: in 1999, 232 glaciers (c. 90% of the total) were smaller than 1 km2, covering 27.2 km2 (less than 30% of the total area), but accounted for 58% of the total loss in area (they had lost 7.4 km2).

Keywords: Italian Alps; glacier shrinkage; terminus fluctuations

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0459.2007.00316.x

Affiliations: 1: Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra ‘Ardito Desio’, Universit√† di Milano, Italy 2: CESI, RICERCA Milan, Italy 3: Regione Lombardia, Servizio Geologico, Milano, Italy

Publication date: September 1, 2007

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