16 Jun 2022
16 Jun 2022
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Effects of topographic and meteorological parameters on the surface area loss of ice aprons in the Mont Blanc massif (European Alps)

Suvrat Kaushik1,2, Ludovic Ravanel1,3, Florence Magnin1, Yajing Yan2, Emmanuel Trouve2, and Diego Cusicanqui4 Suvrat Kaushik et al.
  • 1EDYTEM, Univ. Savoie Mont-Blanc, Univ. Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, 73000 Chambéry, France
  • 2LISTIC, Univ. Savoie Mont Blanc, Polytech, F-74944 Annecy-le-Vieux, France
  • 3Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo, Sem Sælands vei 1, 0371 Oslo, Norway
  • 4IGE, Univ. Grenoble Alpes - CNRS, F-38000 Grenoble, France

Abstract. Ice aprons (IAs) are part of the critical components of the Alpine cryosphere. As a result of the changing climate over the past few decades, deglaciation has resulted in a surface decrease of IAs, which has not yet been documented out of a few specific examples. In this study, we quantify the effects of climate change on IAs since the mid-20th Century in the Mont-Blanc massif (western European Alps). We then evaluate the role of climate forcing parameters and the local topography in the behaviour of IAs. For this, we precisely mapped the surface areas of 200 IAs using high-resolution aerial and satellite photographs from 1952, 2001, 2012 and 2019. From the latter inventory, the surface area of the present individual IAs ranges from 0.001 to 0.04 km2. IAs have lost their surface area over the past 70 years, with an alarming increase since the early 2000s. The total area, from 7.93 km2 in 1952, was reduced to 5.91 km2 in 2001 (-25.5 %) before collapsing to 4.21 km2 in 2019 (-47 % since 1952). We performed a regression analysis using temperature and precipitation proxies to understand better the effects of climate forcing parameters on IA surface area variations. We found a strong correlation between both proxies and the relative area loss of IAs, indicating the significant influence of the changing climate on the evolution of IAs. We also evaluated the role of the local topographic factors in the IAs area loss. At a regional scale, factors like direct solar radiation and elevation have an important influence on the behaviour of IAs, while others like curvature, slope, and size of the IAs seem to be rather important on a local scale.

Suvrat Kaushik et al.

Status: open (until 11 Aug 2022)

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Suvrat Kaushik et al.

Suvrat Kaushik et al.


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Short summary
Climate change impacts all parts of the cryosphere, but most importantly, the smaller ice bodies like Ice Aprons (IAs). This study is the first attempt on a regional scale to assess the impacts of the changing climate on these small but very important ice bodies. Our study shows that IAs have consistently lost mass over the past decades. The effects of climate variables, particularly temperature and precipitation and topographic factors, were analysed on the loss of IAs area.