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Glaciers of Europe

January 1, 1993

ALPS: AUSTRIAN: An overview is provided on the occurrence of the glaciers in the Eastern Alps of Austria and on the climatic conditions in this area, Historical documents on the glaciers have been available since the Middle Ages. Special glaciological observations and topographic surveys of individual glaciers were initiated as early as 1846. Recent data in an inventory based on aerial photographs taken in 1969 show 925 glaciers in the Austrian Alps with a total area of 542 square kilometers. Present research topics include studies of mass and energy balance, relations of glaciers and climate, physical glaciology, a complete inventory of the glaciers, and testing of remote sensing methods. The location of the glacier areas is shown on Landsat multispectral scanner images; the improved capabilities of the Landsat thematic mapper are illustrated with an example from the Oztaler Alpen group.

ALPS: SWISS: According to a glacier inventory published in 1976, which is based on aerial photography of 1973, there are 1,828 glacier units in the Swiss Alps that cover a total area of 1fl42 square kilometers. The Rhonegletscher, currently the ninth largest in the country, was one of the first to be studied in detail. Its surface has been surveyed repeatedly; velocity profiles were measured, and the fluctuations of its terminus were mapped and recorded from 1874 to 1914. Recent research on the glacier has included climatological, hydrological, and massbalance studies. Glaciological research has been conducted on various other glaciers in Switzerland concerning glacier hydrology, glacier hazards, fluctuations of glacier termini, ice mechanics, ice cores, and mass balance. Good maps are available showing the extent of glaciers from the latter decades of the 19th century. More recently, the entire country has been mapped at scales of 1:25,000, 1:50,000, 1:100,000, 1:200,000, and 1:500,000. The 1:25,000-scale series very accurately represents the glaciers as well as locates supraglacial morainic debris and crevasses. The maps are revised every 6 years by use of aerial photogrammetric methods. The possibility of producing a glacier inventory by combining the topographic maps with Landsat digital and visual data is discussed.

ALPS: FRENCH: The glaciers of the French Alps are distributed in four main groups and have a total area of 350 square kilometers. The northernmost group, on the Mont Blanc massif, has a glacier area of 110 square kilometers, which includes Met de Glace, which, with an area of 40 square kilometers, is the largest glacier in the Western Alps. Farther south, the Massif de la Vanoise contains 130 glaciers that have a total area of 85 square kilometers. The glaciers of the Grandes Rousses massif have a total area of 11 square kilometers. Lastly, the Massif du Pelvoux has a total glacier area of 120 square kilometers. Studies of glacier variations since 1600 A.D. have shown numerous fluctuations in glacier length. The glaciers on Mont Blanc that appear to show similar fluctuations in fact have different individual response times. Mass-balance measurements are presently being carried out on nine glaciers. The measurements on one of these glaciers, Glacier de Saint Sorlin, have been used to validate a linear statistical model for mass-balance variation. The model seems to give good results when extended over the entire region of French Alpine glaciers. New methods of mass-balance reconstructions by use of a continuity equation are discussed. Current satellite data have limited usefulness for glacier studies in the French Alps, with the exception of the method correlating changes in the elevation of snowline to changes in glacier mass balance.

ALPS: ITALIAN: Research carried out by Italian glaciologists in support of the World Glacier Inventory project identified approximately 1,400 glaciers in the mountain groups of the Italian Alps. The total surface area of all glaciers, glacierets, and permanent snow fields in Italy with

Publication Year 1993
Title Glaciers of Europe
DOI 10.3133/pp1386E
Authors Richard S. Williams, Jane G. Ferrigno
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Professional Paper
Series Number 1386
Index ID pp1386E
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse