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Continental-scale glacier variations in Europe (Alps, Scandinavia) and their connection to climate: past - present - future

English title Continental-scale glacier variations in Europe (Alps, Scandinavia) and their connection to climate: past - present - future
Applicant Wanner Heinz
Number 116354
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Geographisches Institut Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Climatology. Atmospherical Chemistry, Aeronomy
Start/End 01.04.2007 - 30.09.2010
Approved amount 241'124.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Climatology. Atmospherical Chemistry, Aeronomy
Hydrology, Limnology, Glaciology

Keywords (12)

glacier rconstructions; historical data; glacier mass balance; glacier variations; glacier simulations; Alps and Scandinavia; glacier reconstructions; Alps; Scandinavia; Little Ice Age (LIA); synoptic climatology; perception

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
The understanding of long-term, natural climate variability on different spatial and temporal scales is crucial to assess the recent climate change in a global to regional context. Since glaciers are considered as very important climate indicators, the understanding of past and present glacier variations is a key task for evaluating current climate change. Alpine and Scandinavian glaciers do react differently on variations of energy balance, temperature, precipitation and atmospheric circulation. This project investigates the importance of regional/continental temperature and precipitation as driving factors for glacier dynamics (retreats, advances) during the period from the Little Ice Age (LIA) to the early 21st century.
Historical information from different archives will allow the reconstructions of glacier length fluctuations and mass balances from (western) Scandinavian glaciers and of a transect from western to the eastern Alps. Further, the sensitivity of Alpine and Scandinavian glaciers to variations of temperature and precipitation, including glacier advances and retreats covering half a millennium, will be studied by means of (non-linear) statistical approaches. A complementary method by reconstruction of mass balances using a continuity approach combined with a GIS-based energy balance model and gridded climate data will also be applied. Finally, the mass balances are extrapolated for the entire Alps and Scandinavia using a distributed energy balance model. This enables a synoptical analysis of European climate related to its significance for glacier fluctuations for the last half millennium. Moreover, the project will shed some light on the future glacier behaviour within the different mountain ranges of Scandinavia and the Alps using existing distributed mass balance and ELA models using different scenarios on the increase of temperature and the change of precipitation.
We will also address the question of a changing perception of the glaciers in the Alps and Scandinavia for the last few centuries. The fear of threat by glaciers in early times has changed today to a fear of loss of glaciers as beautiful landscape by the current rapid change of climate.

The long-term glacier length record for the Alps and Scandinavia will be stored in the existing database of the Global Terrestrial Network on Glaciers (GTN-G) as part of the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS). A close cooperation between the Universities in Bern/Zurich and Bergen, Norway, will ensure a mutual enrichment of the scientific research. The project is coupled with a joint proposal submitted by the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research in Bergen. Both projects base on a mutual collaboration of data and knowledge exchange.
Finally, to inform the public about the consequences of the current glacier change is crucial, and glaciers are excellent indicators for the public perception of climate change in mountainous areas.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

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