Anthropogenic climate warming is believed to significantly change landscapes in mountainous areas in the coming decades. To map and predict these changes, we have been running a field programme on the Morteratsch and Pers glaciers (Engadine, Switzerland) since 2001.
This project entails an annual field campaign at the end of the ablation season (usually beginning of October) to perform measurements of mass balance and flow velocity, using ablation stakes and GPS. Since the start of our programme, over 200 mass balance measurements have been performed.
Additionally, an areal drone is used to map the glacier in order to determine its surface elevation change and surface flow velocity with increasing spatial coverage and resolution. These data feed into detailed models to better understand the past, current, and future evolution of such a mountain glacier and in a broader sense for the whole region of the Alps in general.
Our models show that under constant 2001–10 climate conditions, strong retreat and mass loss are to be expected. The future glacier evolution is analysed in detail to understand the timing and rate of retreat, and to assess the role of ice dynamics. Assuming a linearly increasing warming of >3°C by 2100, only isolated and largely stagnant ice patches remain at high elevation. Read more on our model conclusions here. Other papers related to this project can be found here, here and here.