Articles | Volume 68, issue 4
Geogr. Helv., 68, 227–237, 2013
Geogr. Helv., 68, 227–237, 2013

Standard article 16 Dec 2013

Standard article | 16 Dec 2013

Implications of climate change on Glacier de la Plaine Morte, Switzerland

M. Huss, A. Voinesco, and M. Hoelzle M. Huss et al.
  • Department of Geosciences, University of Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland

Abstract. Changes in Switzerland's climate are expected to have major impacts on glaciers, the hydrological regime and the natural hazard potential in mountainous regions. Glacier de la Plaine Morte is the largest plateau glacier in the European Alps and thus represents a particularly interesting site for studying rapid and far-reaching effects of atmospheric warming on Alpine glaciers. Based on detailed field observations combined with numerical modelling, the changes in total ice volume of Glacier de la Plaine Morte since the 1950s and the dynamics of present glacier mass loss are assessed. Future ice melt and changes in glacier runoff are computed using climate scenarios, and a possible increase in the natural hazard potential of glacier-dammed lakes around Plaine Morte over the next decades is discussed. This article provides an integrative view of the past, current and future retreat of an extraordinary Swiss glacier and emphasizes the implications of climate change on Alpine glaciers.