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Measurements of Ablation and Heat Balance On Alpine Glaciers: With some remarks on the cause of glacier recession in the Alps*

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Measurements of heat balance and ablation on glaciers of the Eastern Alps carried out during a total of 45 days since the summer of 1950 indicate that in flat glaciated areas at approximately 3000 m. above sea level 81 to 84 per cent of the energy causing ablation is supplied by short wave radiation from the sun and sky. Only 16 to 19 per cent come from the air in the form of actual and latent heat. On glacier tongues at altitudes of approximately 2300 m. the percentage of ablation caused by radiation is only 58 to 65 per cent. This is primarily the result of the shortened duration of sunshine in the deeper valleys. The supply of perceptible and latent heat from the air can, at most, reach a value of 15 to 30 per cent on glacier tongues. Evaporation from the ice and heat supply by liquid precipitation are negligible during the normal ablation period (June till September).

It is to be expected therefore that the alpine glaciers will primarily react to variations of radiation and albedo during the months of June to September. The effects of changing summer temperatures are considered insufficient to cause the vast changes of the ice-cover. The variations of the duration of summer sunshine and the number of days with snowfall as a rough indication of albedo, respectively, are in perfect agreement with the behaviour of alpine glaciers during the last sixty years.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1955-01-01

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.

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