Aneto Glacier, Spain-Retreating and Disappearing

Aneto Glacier in the Pyrenees of Spain is listed as its largest glacier in a 1984 inventory. In 1984 the glacier had an area of 1.32 square kilometers and a length of 1.6 km (Serrat and Ventura, 2005). The glacier is located on the northeast side of Aneto Peak. The glacier is just a few kilometers from the rapidly retreating Maladeta Glacier. SOER (2010) indicate that more than 80% of the glacier area on the Maladeta-Aneto Massif was lost between 1984 and 2007.
aneto area

aneto retreat map
Image from SOER (2010)

The glacier is too small to rely on our usual Landsat imagery. Here we focus on images from Google Earth and the Digital Globe. The glacier’s maximum top to bottom length by 2005 is no more than 600 meters, black dots indicate glaciers lower margin. The area in 2007 is 0.4 square kilometers by which time the glacier has developed a number of rock outcrops protruding through the thin ice. Snowcover in most images by late summer is minimal. This indicates the lack of a consistent accumulation zone, which a glacier cannot survive without (Pelto, 2010). The glacier has many exposed annual layers extending well upglacier, this is a further indication of the poor preservation of even old glacier ice. In 2005 and 2007 less than 10% of the glacier is snowcovered in the images which are not even at the end of the summer. This glacier is disappearing and like the Careser Glacier, Italy will break into several parts. The thin nature of the glacier is evident by looking up glacier from the terminus, last image from Gus Llobet (llobetgus-on Panaramio)

aneto glacier 2005
2005 Google Earth image, limited snowcover evident

aneto rock outcrops
Arrows indicate rock outcrops amidst the glacier.

aneto annual layers
2007 Digital Globe image
Annual layers of main glacier trunk in 2007aneto glacier slope
Images from Panaramio user-llobetgus

Maladeta Glacier retreat, forecast not to survive

Maladeta Glacier is located amongst the highest peaks in the Pyrenees and is on same mountain massif as the largest glacier in the Pyrenees, Aneto Glacier. Chueca et al (2007) noted that the glacier has retreated significantly from 1935 to 1957 and 1981-2010. From 2001-2005 the glacier retreated 120 m. The glacier in 2008 was 700 m long. They also noted that Maladeta Glacier has lost 70% of its area from 1850 to 2007, from 1.5 square kilometers to 0.45 square kilometers. The glacier is seen below in an image from the WGMS. Miguel Arenillas from the Polytechnic University of Madrid has reported thee mass balance from 2001-2009 to the World Glacier Monitoring Service was -8.4 meters. Given the estimated glacier thickness of 30-40 meters, this loss in the last decade represents approximately 25% of the glacier lost in a single decade. The behavior follows that of other Pyrenees glaciers, in 2004-2005 15 of 16 glaciers observed and reported to the WGMS retreated.Chueca et al (2007) identified that these changes have been forced by a reduction in the snowfall contributions and increase in the maximum temperatures during the past few decades in the Pyrenees. The 2008 Google Earth image indicates a glacier almost devoid of snowcover. It is also evident in the Google Earth images and a view of the glacier from below the terminus, that the glacier is quite thin in the lower reaches and has very limited crevassing. Both suggest a glacier with minimal movement. In the first image from 2008 the lower margin of the glacier is indicated by a blue line.The lack of a substantial accumulation has led to the large negative mass balances. To survive a glacier must have a persistent and consistent accumulation zone. The lack of a consistent accumulation zone on Maladeta Glacier will lead to the total loss of this glacier in the next 20-30 years. Given that at least 16 glaciers have disappeared in the last thirty years in the Pyrenees, it will not be the exception.