Lys Glacier drains south from Lyskamm in the Monta Rosa Group of Italy. This glacier has a long history of observations that have indicated two short term advances in the 20th century 1912-21 and 1973-85 amidst a broader retreat. The net change for the 1915-2004 interval was a 600 meter retreat (Smiraglia et al, 2006). They also noted a 10% area extent loss from 1975-2003, and since the glacier was advancing up to 1985 this change occurred more rapidly. The Italian Glacier Commission report on terminus change of this glacier annually in the two latest reports Lys Glacier retreated 10 m in 2012 and 20 m in 2011. The total reported retreat from 2005-2012 was 186 m, more than 20 m per year. Here we examine Landsat images from 1990 to 2014.
Google Earth Image
In 1990 two branches of the glacier merged in the valley bottom and extended to the red arrow marking the terminus of the glacier at that time. The yellow arrow indicates the 2014 terminus position, and the yellow A indicates a prominent bedrock knob that a branch of the glacier encircles, pink arrows. By 2013 the glacier in the main valley have separated, there are a few small lakes forming amidst the decaying stagnant ice tongue between the yellow and red arrow. The bedrock knob at Point A has greatly expanded. In 2014 none of the termini reach the floor of the main valley. As the stagnant ice melts, the lake area is expanding indicating that a new alpine lake will likely form. The retreat from 1990-2014 is 1300 meters. A closeup in 2009 from Google Earth indicates the two tongues with bedrock below separating them from the main valley floor, red arrows. There is still some relict ice below on the valley floor detached from the active glacier, blue arrows, that has small lake developing amid the stagnant ice. There is substantial crevassing above both actual termini, but not immediately. The retreat should slow now that the glacier has retreated onto steeper slopes, having lost the low elevation low slope valley tongue.
The retreat of this glacier is similar to that of nearby Verra Grande Glacier.
1990 landsat image
2013 Landsat image
2014 Landsat Image
Google Earth Image
The last year with a significant positive balance on the glacier was 1977, in the majority of years since 1980 the glacier has had no accumulation zone, which equates to an accumulation area ratio of zero (Carturan and Seppi, 2007). This translates to a glacier with no income of snow, but still plenty of losses via melting, which means the glacier cannot survive, and of course will drive the retreat (Pelto, 2010). Luca Carturan, University of Padova, provides both a chart of mass balance and a comparison of the glacier from 1967 to 2009, red bars indicate negative mass balance. The glacier has the longest mass balance record of any Italian glacier and the data is submitted annually to the World Glacier Monitoring Service. Carturan et al (2012) examine the mass balance distribution in more detail, in their Figure 2 the glacier is separated from its most western appendage (W), but the center part (C) is still connected to the main section (M) of the glacier, red dots are the around glacier watershed. . The images below are a series of Landsat images from 1999, 2003, 2009 and 2011. The red arrows indicate two narrow ice connections that were intact between the west-center-main part of glacier in 1999 and 2003. By 2009 the west section is not connected, and by 2011 the center connection is also gone. The deeper blue color of the glacier indicates a lack of snowcover, snowcover can be seen on the glaciers north of the ridge above the Careser Glacier. Careser Glacier fits the pattern of thinning, lack of accumulation zone and separation as seen at Presena Glacier, Dosde Glacier and Cavagnoli Glacier
Dosdè Glacier in the Dosdè-Piazzi Group of the Italian Alps has been the focus of research by the University of Milan Department of Geography in the last decade to both chronicle its retreat, examine the causes, and evaluate the impacts and potential mitigation steps. In 1954 there was a Dosdè Est, Dosdè Centrale and Dosdè Ovest glaciers with respective areas of 1.2 and 0.8 and 0.9 square kilometers. By 2003 the areas had been reduced to 0.8, 0.5 and 0.3 square kilometers. This is evident in the picture from 1932 and 2007 of the Dosdè Glacier group from Guglielmina Diolaiuti, University of Milan. I have added arrows annotating key changes Est is on the left, Centale in the middle and Ovest (labelled Ost) on the right. The purple arrow indicates the separation of two glaciers. The blue arrow indicates the change in glacier size near the top of the peak. The orange arrow notes the thinning of the glacier near the current glacier tongue. The green arrow indicates the retreat at the head of the glacier indicating thinning even in the accumulation zone. This glacier lost all of its snowcover in several recent summers including 2010, in this Google Earth view the summer of 2010 is ongoing and their are a few white patches of snowpack from the previous winter, that were then lost. This inconsistency of the accumulation zone is a sign of a glacier that cannot survive In this region at least 6 glaciers have been observed to disappear in the last 50 years. The continued decline in area and lack of accumulation zone persistence does not suggest that glaciers in this mountain massif will survive. Dosdè Est has retreated over 400 meters in the last 50 year, but of more importance to its survival is the degree of thinning apprarent from the terminus to its head. Dosdè Est has been the focus of study utilizing a covering blanket to examine its efficacy in reducing ablation as was done on Stubai Glacier in Austria. The University of Milan group reported a 43% decline in snow ablation and a 100% decline in ice ablation. The retreat of this glacier follows the trend of increasingly rapid and widespread retreat seen throughout the Italian Alps, as chronicled by the Italian Glacier Commission, which reported more than 95% of the over 100 glaciers examined retreating from 2000-2005. The smaller size and elevation range of the Dosdè Glacier group makes them more vulnerable to complete loss than Forni Glacier.