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Climate variability and Alpine glaciers evolution in Northwestern Italy from the Little Ice Age to the 2010s

Abstract

In this work, we analyze climate variability and glacier evolution for a study area in the Northwestern Italian Alps from the Little Ice Age (LIA) to the 2010s. In this area, glacier retreat has been almost continuous since the end of the LIA, and many glaciers are now extinct. We compared glaciological and climatic data in order to evaluate the sensitivity of glaciers to temperature and precipitation trends. We found that temperatures show significant warming trends, while precipitation shows no clear signal. After the 1980s, the total number of positive trends in temperature increased, particularly minimum temperature. The latter does not seem to be the only cause of glacier shrinkage but rather on acceleration of an ongoing trend documented since the end of the LIA. In some rare cases, the effects of warming trends on glacier dynamics have been accentuated by a concomitant decrease in precipitation. We hope that this study will contribute to increase the knowledge of the relationships between climate variation and glacier evolution in the Greater Alpine Region.

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Acknowledgments

This work was carried out within the activities of the Project of Interest NextData (www.nextdataproject.it). We wish to thank Dr. Anna Maria Gaffodio, Dr. Paola Bassi (ARPA Piemonte) and Ing. Daniele Cat Berro (Società Meteorologica Subalpina) for climatic data providing, and Dott. Giovanni Mortara for sharing his glaciological expertise of the study area.

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Correspondence to Guido Nigrelli.

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Morphological and geographical parameters of the glaciers by Alpine sector, for the five time steps considered.

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Nigrelli, G., Lucchesi, S., Bertotto, S. et al. Climate variability and Alpine glaciers evolution in Northwestern Italy from the Little Ice Age to the 2010s. Theor Appl Climatol 122, 595–608 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00704-014-1313-x

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Keywords

  • Glacier Retreat
  • Glacier Change
  • Glacier Advance
  • Geographic Information System Function
  • Glacial Area