01 Jul 2021

01 Jul 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Characteristics of mountain glaciers in the northern Japanese Alps

Kenshiro Arie1, Chiyuki Narama2, Ryohei Yamamoto1,3, Kotaro Fukui4, and Hajime Iida4 Kenshiro Arie et al.
  • 1Graduate School of Science and Technology, Niigata University,8050 Igarashi2-Cho, Nishi-Ku, Niigata, 950-2181
  • 2Program of Field Research in the Environmental Sciences, Niigata University, 8050 Igarashi2-Cho, Nishi-Ku, Niigata, 950-2181
  • 3Aero Asahi Corporation Spatial Information Infrastructure, 50-1165
  • 4Tateyama Caldera Sabo Museum, 68 Ashikuraji-bunazaka, Tateyama-machi, Toyama, 930-1405

Abstract. In 2012, three perennial snow patches in the northern Japanese Alps were determined to be very small glaciers (VSGs: < 0.5 km2). These were soon followed by four more nearby. However, it had not been determined how such glaciers could be maintained in such a warm climate. In this study, we calculate annual and seasonal mass balances of five of these VSGs, covering 2015–2019 for four of them (2017–2019 for the fifth) using multi-period digital surface models (DSMs) based on structure from motion–multi-view stereo (SfM–MVS) technology and images taken from a small airplane.

The results indicate that, due to mass acquired from avalanches, these VSGs are maintained by acquiring a winter balance that is more than double that from the snowfall amount, thereby exceeding the summer balance. Therefore, we classify them as topographically controlled VSGs. We find almost no annual fluctuation in their summer balance; however, their winter balance, and annual balance, have large annual fluctuations. The annual balance, which mainly depends on the winter balance, showed accumulation throughout each glacier during heavy snow years and ablation throughout each glacier during light snow years. This characteristic differs from the upper accumulation area and lower ablation area that exists on most glaciers. These VSGs had negative annual balance gradients, which suggests that they did not have an equilibrium line during the observation period. Moreover, comparing to other glaciers worldwide, we find the mass balance amplitude of glaciers in the northern Japanese Alps to be the highest measured to date.

Kenshiro Arie et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2021-182', Anonymous Referee #1, 27 Jul 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Kenshiro Arie, 12 Oct 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2021-182', Ian Evans, 28 Jul 2021
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Kenshiro Arie, 12 Oct 2021

Kenshiro Arie et al.

Kenshiro Arie et al.


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Short summary
In recent years, seven glaciers are confirmed in the northern Japanese Alps. However, their mass balance has not been clarified. In this study, we calculated the seasonal and continuous annual mass balance of these glaciers during 2015–2019 by the geodetic method using aerial images and SfM-MVS technology. Our results showed that the mass balance of these glaciers was different from other glaciers in the world. The characteristics of Japanese glaciers provide new insights for earth science.