14 Dec 2022
14 Dec 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Heat wave contribution to 2022’s extreme glacier melt from automated real-time ice ablation readings

Aaron Cremona1,2, Matthias Huss1,2,3, Johannes Landmann1,2,4, Joël Borner1,5, and Daniel Farinotti1,2 Aaron Cremona et al.
  • 1Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology (VAW), ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), Birmensdorf, Switzerland
  • 3Department of Geosciences, University of Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland
  • 4Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology, MeteoSwiss, Zurich-Airport, Switzerland
  • 5WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, Davos, Switzerland

Abstract. Accelerating glacier melt rates were observed during the last decades. Substantial ice loss occurs particularly during heat waves that are expected to intensify in the future. Because measuring and modelling glacier mass balance at the daily scale remains challenging, short-term mass balance variations, including extreme melt events, are poorly captured. Here, we present a novel approach based on computer-vision techniques for automatically determining daily mass balance variations at the local scale. The approach is based on the automated recognition of color-taped ablation stakes from camera images, and is tested and validated at six stations installed on three Alpine glaciers during the summers of 2019–2022. Our approach produces daily mass balance with an uncertainty of ±0.81 cm w.e d−1, which is about half of the accuracy obtained from manual read outs. The automatically retrieved daily mass balances at the six sites were compared to average daily mass balances over the last decade derived from seasonal in situ observations to detect and assess extreme melt events. This allows analyzing the impact that the summer heat waves which occurred in 2022 had on glacier melt. Our results indicate 23 days with extreme melt, showing a strong correspondence between the heat wave periods and extreme melt events. The combination of below-average winter snow fall and a suite of summer heat waves led to unprecedented glacier mass loss. The Swiss-wide glacier storage change during the 25 days of heat waves in 2022 is estimated as 1.27±0.10 km3 of water, corresponding to 35 % of the overall glacier mass loss during that summer. Compared to the average course of the past decade, the 25 days of heat waves in 2022 caused a glacier mass loss that corresponds to 56 % of the overall mass loss experienced on average during summers 2010–2020, demonstrating the relevance of heat waves for seasonal melt.

Aaron Cremona et al.

Status: open (until 08 Feb 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2022-247', Anonymous Referee #1, 08 Jan 2023 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2022-247', Anonymous Referee #2, 11 Jan 2023 reply

Aaron Cremona et al.

Aaron Cremona et al.


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Short summary
Summer heat waves have a substantial impact on glacier melt as emphasized by the extreme summer of 2022. This study presents a novel approach for detecting extreme glacier melt events at the regional scale based on the combination of automatically-retrieved point mass balance observations and modelling approaches. The in-depth analysis of summer 2022 evidences the strong correspondence between heat waves and extreme melt events and demonstrates their significance for seasonal melt.