The 1975–2005 glacier changes in Aosta Valley (Italy) and the relations with climate evolution

Diolaiuti, G.A.; Bocchiola, D.; Vagliasindi, M.; D’Agata, C.; Smiraglia, C.
December 2012
Progress in Physical Geography;Dec2012, Vol. 36 Issue 6, p764
Academic Journal
Here three glacier surface area records (years 1975, 1999 and 2005) available for Aosta Valley (western Italian Alps) have been synthesized. The 1975 data have been collected by previous authors who compiled the first Aosta Valley regional glacier database. The 1999 and 2005 surface area data were computed by the authors here combining registered colour orthophotos with differential GPS (DGPS) field measurements. The surface changes of 174 glaciers (those shared within the three records of data) were calculated to describe the recent evolution of a representative subset of Italian glaciers. Aosta Valley glaciers lost 44.3 km2 during 1975–2005, i.e. c. 27% of the initial area. Small glaciers contributed strongly to total area loss, and during 2005 147 glaciers (c. 84.5% of the studied ones) were smaller than 1 km2, covering 20.7 km2 (c. 17% of the total area), but accounted for 43% of the total loss in area (losing 19 km2 from 1975 to 2005). The area change rate accelerated recently (1999–2005: mean area loss of c. 2.8 km2/year; 1975–1999: mean area loss of c. 1.1 km2/year). We then analyse records (1975–2005) of temperature, precipitation and snow cover from three high-altitude (1332 m asl to 3488 m asl) stations within Aosta Valley, to investigate modified climate within the area. We find increasing temperature especially during late spring and summer, and substantially unchanged total precipitation, with marked reduction of snowfall, snow cover, number of snowfall events and duration of continuous snow cover, especially during spring and summer, likely driving shrinking of glacier coverage.


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