Articles | Volume 7, issue 6
The Cryosphere, 7, 1819–1838, 2013
The Cryosphere, 7, 1819–1838, 2013

Research article 03 Dec 2013

Research article | 03 Dec 2013

Decay of a long-term monitored glacier: Careser Glacier (Ortles-Cevedale, European Alps)

L. Carturan1, C. Baroni2, M. Becker3, A. Bellin4, O. Cainelli4, A. Carton5, C. Casarotto6, G. Dalla Fontana1, A. Godio7, T. Martinelli4, M. C. Salvatore2, and R. Seppi8 L. Carturan et al.
  • 1Department of Land, Environment, Agriculture and Forestry, University of Padova, Agripolis, Viale dell'Università 16, 35020 Legnaro, Padua, Italy
  • 2Department of Earth Sciences, University of Pisa, Via S. Maria 53, 56126 Pisa, Italy
  • 3Department of Geological Sciences, California State University, 1250 Bellflower Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90840, USA
  • 4Department of Civil, Environmental and Mechanical Engineering (DICAM), University of Trento, Via Mesiano 77, 38123 Trento, Italy
  • 5Department of Geosciences, University of Padova, Via G. Gradenigo 6, 35131 Padua, Italy
  • 6Museo delle Scienze, Via Calepina 14, 38122 Trento, Italy
  • 7Department of Environment, Land and Infrastructure Engineering, Politecnico di Torino, Corso Duca degli Abruzzi 24, 10129 Turin, Italy
  • 8Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Pavia, Via Ferrata 1, 27100 Pavia, Italy

Abstract. The continuation of valuable, long-term glacier observation series is threatened by the accelerated mass loss which currently affects a large portion of so-called "benchmark" glaciers. In this work we present the evolution of the Careser Glacier, from the beginning of systematic observation at the end of the 19th century to its current condition in 2012. In addition to having one of the longest and richest observation records among the Italian glaciers, Careser is unique in the Italian Alps for its 46 yr mass balance series that started in 1967. In the present study, variations in the length, area and volume of the glacier since 1897 are examined, updating and validating the series of direct mass balance observations and adding to the mass balance record into the past using the geodetic method. The glacier is currently strongly out of balance and in rapid decay; its average mass loss rate over the last 3 decades was 1.5 m water equivalent per year, increasing to 2.0 m water equivalent per year in the last decade. Although these rates are not representative at a regional scale, year-to-year variations in mass balance show an unexpected increase in correlation with other glaciers in the Alps, during the last 3 decades. If mass loss continues at this pace, the glacier will disappear within a few decades, putting an end to this unique observation series.