Local- and Regional-Scale Forcing of Glacier Mass Balance Changes in the Swiss Alps




Gharehchahi, Saeideh
Ballinger, Thomas J.
Jensen, Jennifer L. R.
Bhardwaj, Anshuman
Sam, Lydia
Weaver, Russell
Butler, David

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Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute


Glacier mass variations are climate indicators. Therefore, it is essential to examine both winter and summer mass balance variability over a long period of time to address climate-related ice mass fluctuations. In this study, we analyze glacier mass balance components and hypsometric characteristics with respect to their interactions with local meteorological variables and remote large-scale atmospheric and oceanic patterns. The results show that all selected glaciers have lost their equilibrium condition in recent decades, with persistent negative annual mass balance trends and decreasing accumulation area ratios (AARs), accompanied by increasing air temperatures of ≥ +0.45 °C decade−1. The controlling factor of annual mass balance is mainly attributed to summer mass losses, which are correlated with (warming) June to September air temperatures. In addition, the interannual variability of summer and winter mass balances is primarily associated to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), Greenland Blocking Index (GBI), and East Atlantic (EA) teleconnections. Although climate parameters are playing a significant role in determining the glacier mass balance in the region, the observed correlations and mass balance trends are in agreement with the hypsometric distribution and morphology of the glaciers. The analysis of decadal frontal retreat using Landsat images from 1984 to 2014 also supports the findings of this research, highlighting the impact of lake formation at terminus areas on rapid glacier retreat and mass loss in the Swiss Alps.



glacier mass balance, climate change, regional atmospheric circulations, remote sensing, hypsometric index, hypsometric integral, frontal retreat rate, Swiss Alps, Geography and Environmental Studies


Gharehchahi, S., Ballinger, T. J., Jensen, J. L. R., Bhardwaj, A., Sam, L., Weaver, R. C., & Butler, D. R. (2021). Local- and regional-scale forcing of glacier mass balance changes in the Swiss Alps. Remote Sensing, 13(10), 1949.


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