Glacier retreat and climate change: Documenting the last 50 years of Alpine glacier history from area and geometry changes of Dosdè Piazzi glaciers (Lombardy Alps, Italy)

Diolaiuti, Guglielmina Adele; Maragno, Davide; D'Agata, Carlo; Smiraglia, Claudio; Bocchiola, Daniele
April 2011
Progress in Physical Geography;Apr2011, Vol. 35 Issue 2, p161
Academic Journal
The recent rapid mass loss of mountain glaciers in response to climate warming has been reported for high and low latitudes all over the Earth. The paper analyses and discusses the recent evolution of a representative glacierized group within the Italian Alps, the Piazzi—Dosdè, where small glaciers are experiencing considerable retreat and shrinking. We analysed aerial photos to calculate area and geometry changes in the time window 1954—2003, and glaciological and geomorphological surveys were also performed. The estimated area change during 1954—2003 was —3.97 km2 (—51% of the area coverage in 1954). Area reduction increased more recently: area change during 1991—2003 (12 years) was —1.74 km2, against —0.67 km2 during 1981—1991 (10 years), and —1.57 km 2 during 1954—1981 (27 years). Moreover, analysis of the most recent orthophotos acquired during the summer of 2003 under exceptional conditions (i.e. total absence of snow cover) allowed observation and mapping of changes affecting glacier shape and morphology, including growing rock outcrops, tongue separations, formation of proglacial lakes, increasing supraglacial debris and collapse structures. Such processes cause positive feedbacks that accelerate further glacier disintegration once they appear. From a geodynamical perspective, the Dosdè Piazzi is now experiencing transition from a glacial system to a paraglacial one; areas where in the past the shaping and driving factors were glaciers are now subject to the action of melting water, slope evolution and periglacial processes.


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