Swiss glaciers have lost a lot of ice in recent years due to increased melting. As temperatures climb, so do the fears that the glaciers could one day disappear altogether.
Swiss glaciers have lost a lot of ice in recent years due to increased melting. As temperatures climb, so do the fears that the glaciers could one day disappear altogether. Until now it could only be estimated approximately how big the ice volume in the Swiss Alps actually is and how it has changed in recent years.
A team of scientists headed by Martin Funk, ETH-Professor at the Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology (VAW) at ETH Zurich, however, has now developed a novel procedure for determining the ice volume of a glacier. Their results are presented in the current issue of Global and Planetary Change.
The researchers developed the new method according to the law of mass conservation, which states that the surface mass balance has to be balanced by the ice flow and the change in ice thickness. This allows to infer on the ice thickness distribution of a glacier from the surface topography by estimating the mass balance distribution. "The calculation of the current ice volume is the most important indicator in predicting future glacier changes," explains Martin Funk.