Articles | Volume 7, issue 2
Research article
21 Mar 2013
Research article |  | 21 Mar 2013

Gravity effect of glacial ablation in the Eastern Alps – observation and modeling

P. Arneitz, B. Meurers, D. Ruess, C. Ullrich, J. Abermann, and M. Kuhn

Abstract. Absolute gravity measurements have been regularly performed in the Austrian Eastern Alps since 1985. A gravity increase of 300 nm s−2 has been observed so far. The gravity trend is explained by ablation effects within surrounding glaciers. Ice thickness changes derived from 3 successive glacier inventories of 1969, 1997 and 2006 are used for quantitative 3-D modeling based on rectangular prisms with basis areas of ≤ 8 m × 8 m. Local topographic changes due to man-made mass displacements close to the measuring site are modeled by a polyhedron approach. Two-thirds (2/3) of the observed gravity increase can be explained by the ablation model response and man-made effects. A positive trend of about 100 nm s−2 remains. The origin of the residual trend remains open. Correcting for geodynamical processes like Alpine uplift or postglacial deformation is expected to cause a slight increase of this trend. The observed gravity signal shows seasonal gravity variations as well, which are probably due to snow cover effects but cannot be quantified due to the lack of appropriate snow cover information.