Glacier retreat

Throughout the Alps glaciers currently experience rapid retreat. Even over a short time interval of three years, this retreat and the thinning of glaciers is well visible from satellite images even without quantitative analysis. Use the browser’s zoom for full resolution. The images speak for themselves.

French Alps

Glacier Blanc

sentinelflow.sh [...] --intersect 44.9,6.3 --tiles 31TGK \
                      --extent 760000,4978000,772000,4986000
../_images/glblanc_20180828_103013_461_S2B_RGB.jpg

Aug. 28, 2018

../_images/glblanc_20150829_103705_317_S2A_RGB.jpg

Aug. 29, 2015

Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2015, 2018). Processed with SentinelFlow.

Glacier Blanc in 2015 and 2018.

Glacier Blanc is one of the southernmost glaciers in the Alps. Between 2015 and 2018 the thin terminal tongue retreated quickly making it more and more difficult to organise ice training from the nearby refuge. Glacier Noir on the bottom half of the pictures now consists of two independent glaciers. Also note the Spring 2016 rock avalanche on Bonne Pierre Glacier to the left. I could find no accounts from it in the news, perhaps because this side of the mountain is uninhibited in winter.

Glaciers de la Vanoise

sentinelflow.sh [...] --intersect 45.9,6.9 --tiles 32TLR \
                      --extent 334000,5081000,346000,5089000
../_images/vanoise_20180828_103013_461_S2B_RGB.jpg

Aug. 28, 2018

../_images/vanoise_20150829_103705_317_S2A_RGB.jpg

Aug. 29, 2015

Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2015, 2018). Processed with SentinelFlow.

Glaciers de la Vanoise in 2015 and 2018.

The Glaciers de la Vanoise are a group of glaciers that (still) connect to form a relatively broad continuous ice field in the French Alps of Vanoise. In recent years, the accumulation zone has been reduced to a patchy region around the highest domes. Despite high amounts of snow in the winter of 2018, not so much seem to remain after the melt season. Also note debris-flow activity in the valley to the west of the image.

Mer de Glace

sentinelflow.sh [...] --intersect 45.9,6.9 --tiles 32TLR \
                      --extent 334000,5081000,346000,5089000
../_images/merdeglace_20180828_103013_461_S2B_RGB.jpg

Aug. 28, 2018

../_images/merdeglace_20150829_103705_317_S2A_RGB.jpg

Aug. 29, 2015

Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2015, 2018). Processed with SentinelFlow.

Mer de Glace in 2015 and 2018.

The Mer de Glace is one of the first places where systematic glacier studies were conducted, at a time when it extended down to the valley of Chamonix. The ogives, successive layers of clean and dirty ice, deform more and more as they travel downglacier due to higher velocities along the centerline, and record year-to-year glacier motion. Note how the unstable glacier banks evolved as several new gullies appeared between the summers of 2015 and 2018.

Swiss Alps

Gorner Glacier

sentinelflow.sh [...] --intersect 46.0,7.8  --tiles 32TMR \
                      --extent 402000,5085000,414000,5093000
../_images/gorner_20180828_103013_461_S2B_RGB.jpg

Aug. 28, 2018

../_images/gorner_20150829_103705_317_S2A_RGB.jpg

Aug. 29, 2015

Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2015, 2018). Processed with SentinelFlow.

Gorner Glacier in 2015 and 2018.

The junction between the upper part of Gorner Glacier (the northern tributary) and the terminal tongue (actually fed by the Grenz Glacier) is growing thinner every year. It will soon be possible to reach the Monte Rosa hut located south of the two lakes on the nunatak in the centre right of the pictures, without stepping on the ice. The images also show supraglacial rivers moving downstream with the flow, and frontal retreat of the terminal tongue.

Aletsch Glacier

sentinelflow.sh [...] --intersect 46.4,8.1 --tiles 32TMS \
                      --extent 420000,5138000,432000,5146000
../_images/aletsch_20180828_103013_461_S2B_RGB.jpg

Aug. 28, 2018

../_images/aletsch_20150829_103705_317_S2A_RGB.jpg

Aug. 29, 2015

Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2015, 2018). Processed with SentinelFlow.

Aletsch Glacier in 2015 and 2018.

The Aletsch Glacier, the largest in the Alps, retreated 200 metres in only three years. The images also show that the glacier thinned significantly between 2015 and 2018. The retreat of the glacier provoked destabilization of the mountain slopes near the tip, where trees fell due to landslides. Moraines with different ages can be seen on the north slope. Note how the ice cover in the higher mountains is also diminishing.

Unteraar Glacier

sentinelflow.sh [...] --intersect 46.6,8.2 --tiles 32TMS \
                      --extent 432000,5153000,444000,5161000
../_images/unteraar_20180828_103013_461_S2B_RGB.jpg

Aug. 28, 2018

../_images/unteraar_20150829_103705_317_S2A_RGB.jpg

Aug. 29, 2015

Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2015, 2018). Processed with SentinelFlow.

Unteraar Glacier in 2015 and 2018.

Thanks to the many rock debris covering the surface of the Unteraar Glacier, the eastward motion of the glacier between the two images is well visible. A patch of rock-covered dead ice detached from the glacier snout almost completely disappeared, while the smaller, Oberaar Glacier visible on the lower half of the picture is also retreating. Again, one can also observe the retreat of smaller glaciers at high elevations.

Rhone Glacier

sentinelflow.sh [...] --intersect 46.6,8.4 --tiles 32TMS \
                      --extent 447000,5158000,459000,5166000
../_images/rhone_20180828_103013_461_S2B_RGB.jpg

Aug. 28, 2018

../_images/rhone_20150829_103705_317_S2A_RGB.jpg

Aug. 29, 2015

Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2015, 2018). Processed with SentinelFlow.

Rhone Glacier in 2015 and 2018.

Between 2015 and 2018, the Rhone Glacier became thinner and the glacial lake at the front grew a bit larger. The white patch at the southern tip of the glacier consists of large white blankets designed to protect the underlying ice cave open for tourism. It has the same colour with snow and allows the ice below to melt slower than its surroundings.

Morteratsch Glacier

sentinelflow.sh [...] --intersect 46.2,9.9 --tiles 32TNS \
                      --extent 565000,5135000,577000,5143000
../_images/morteratsch_20180815_102017_456_S2B_RGB.jpg

Aug. 15, 2018

../_images/morteratsch_20150826_102655_711_S2A_RGB.jpg

Aug. 26, 2015

Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2015, 2018). Processed with SentinelFlow.

Morteratsch Glacier in 2015 and 2018.

While the terminal tongue of Morteratsch Glacier is slowly melting under a thick layer of rock debris, the area of clean ice clearly diminished between 2015 and 2018. The snout of the Pers Glacier, to the right, also retreated, causing a river to appear, that now connects between the two glaciers.