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Evolution of temperature indices in the periglacial environment of the European Alps in the period 1990–2019


Air temperature in the European Alps shows warming over recent decades at an average rate of 0.3 °C/10 years, thereby outpacing the global warming rate of 0.2 °C/10 years. The periglacial environment of the Alps is particularly important for several aspects (i.e. hydropower production, tourism, natural hazards, indicator of global warming). However, there is a lack of specific and updated studies relating to temperature change in this environment. In order to fill this gap, the recent temperature trends in the periglacial environment of the Alps were analyzed. Mean/maximum/minimum daily air temperatures recorded by 14 land-based meteorological stations were used, and the temperature indices for the period 1990–2019 were calculated. The periglacial environment of the Alps showed a warming rate of 0.4 °C/10 years, 0.6 °C/10 years and 0.8 °C/10 years for the mean/maximum/minimum temperatures, respectively. These warming rates are higher than that observed for the entire Alpine area. In 2050 many glaciers of the Alps below 3000 m altitude are expected to be extinct, and all the areas previously occupied by glaciers will become periglacial. In order to manage and adapt to these changes, more in-depth climate analyses are needed. This is necessary for all the mountainous areas of the world, which are undergoing similar changes.

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The authors would like to thank all the public bodies that have made the data available free of charge, through their online digital archives. This work was carried out in the framework of the RiST2 Project, co-financed by “Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Torino”.

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Correspondence to Guido Nigrelli.

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Nigrelli, G., Chiarle, M. Evolution of temperature indices in the periglacial environment of the European Alps in the period 1990–2019. J. Mt. Sci. 18, 2842–2853 (2021).

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  • Mountain climate
  • Cryosphere
  • Climate change
  • Extreme temperature
  • Air temperature trend