The impact of climate change on glaciers in the Chamonix Valley, French Alps.

The impact of climate change on glaciers in the Chamonix Valley, French Alps. Edward Daws.

ABSTRACT

In recent years retreating glaciers have become synonymous with the onset of global warming, attracting interest from public and scientific communities alike. This paper presents an assessment of glacier front variation in relation to temperature and precipitation records between 1934 and 2014 for three glaciers – Mer de Glace, Glacier d’Argentière and Glacier des Bossons – in the Chamonix Valley region of the French Alps. Results suggest (i) annual temperature increased by 2°C in the Chamonix Valley between 1934 and 2014 when all three glaciers retreated, yet no significant trend in precipitation occurred during this period; (ii) all three glaciers demonstrate a medium to strong negative statistical correlation between average temperature and glacier front variations between 1934 and 2014; and (iii) in recent years (1984-2014) both temperature and glacial retreat have increased at unprecedented rates. In addition, results suggest that a further temperature increase of 1°C in the future will drive approximately 200.2 m and 307.1 m of additional retreat for the Mer de Glace and Glacier des Bossons, respectively. In the next 50-100 years the smaller glaciers in the Chamonix Valley are at risk of disappearing completely, with the larger glaciers expected to retreat far up their valleys to very high altitudes.

Keywords Glacial retreat, Chamonix Valley (French Alps), Climate change, Global warming

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