Articles | Volume 65, issue 2
30 Jun 2010
 | 30 Jun 2010

Mass balance of Pizolgletscher

M. Huss

Abstract. Half of the glaciers in the Swiss Alps are smaller than 0.1 km2. Despite this, the mass budget of small glaciers and their response to ongoing climate change is rarely studied. A new mass balance monitoring programme on Pizolgletscher (0.08 km2) in north-eastern Switzerland was started in 2006. This paper presents first results and describes a new approach to determining the mass balance of glaciers. Seasonal field observations are interpreted using a distributed mass balance model in daily resolution that allows spatial inter- and extrapolation of sparse data points and the calculation of mass balance over arbitrary time periods. Evaluation of aerial photographs acquired in subdecadal intervals since 1968 allows inclusion of data on changes in glacier area and ice volume, contributing towards a long-term reconstruction of Pizolgletscher's mass balance. The analysis revealed fast mass loss over the last three years with annual balances of -1.61 m w.e. in 2006/2007, -0.71 m w.e. in 2007/2008, and -1.46 m w.e. in 2008/2009 and high spatial variability of mass balance on Pizolgletscher.