DISTRIBUTION AND EVOLUTION OF ICE APRONS IN A CHANGING CLIMATE IN THE MONT-BLANC MASSIF (WESTERN EUROPEAN ALPS)
- 1EDYTEM, CNRS, Université Savoie Mont Blanc, Le Bourget du Lac, France
- 2LISTIC, Université Savoie Mont Blanc, Annecy, France
- 3University of Lausanne, CIRM, Bramois, Switzerland
- 4IGE, Institut des Géosciences de l’Environnement, Université Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble, France
Keywords: Ice Aprons, Digital Elevation Model, topographic factors, climate change, Mont-Blanc massif
Abstract. Ice Apron (IA) is a poorly studied ice feature, commonly existing in all the world’s major mountain regions. This study aims to map the locations of the IAs in the Mont Blanc massif (MBM), making use of the very high-resolution optical satellite images from 2001, 2012 and 2019. 423 IAs were identified and accurately delineated in the MBM on the images from 2019, and their topographic characteristics were studied. We generated our own Digital Elevation Model (DEM) at 4 m resolution since the freely available products predominantly suffer from significant inconsistencies, especially in steep mountain areas. Results show that most IAs exist at elevations above the regional Equilibrium Line Altitude (ELA), on steep slopes, on concave surfaces, on northern and southern aspects and on the most rugged terrains. They are also commonly associated with steep slope glaciers as 85% of them occur on these glaciers’ headwalls. A comparison between 2001 and 2019 shows that IAs have lost around 29% of their area over a period of 18 years. This is significant and the rate of area loss is very alarming in comparison with the larger glacier bodies. We also studied the effect of topographic parameters on the area loss. We found that topographic factors like slope, aspect, curvature, elevation and Terrain Ruggedness Index (TRI) strongly influence the rate of area loss of IAs.