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Simulation of the historical variations in length of Unterer Grindelwaldgletscher, Switzerland

  • M. J. Schmeits (a1) and J. Oerlemans (a1)

Abstract

The historical length variations in Unterer Grindelwaldgletscher have been simulated by coupling a numerical mass-balance model to a dynamic ice-flow model. As forcing functions, we used (partly reconstructed) local climatic records, which were transformed by the mass-balance model into a mass-balance history. The ice-flow model then computes the length variations that have occurred over the course of time.

In a model run from AD 1530 to the present, with both seasonal temperature and precipitation variations as forcing functions, the observed maximum length of the glacier around AD 1860 and the subsequent retreat are simulated. The observed AD 1600 maximum, however, does not show up in the simulation. This is probably due to an incorrect reconstruction of the mass balance for this period, as detailed climatic data are available only since 1865. The root-mean-square difference between the simulated and the observed front positions is 0.28 km. The simulated glacier geometry for 1987 fits the observed geometry for that year reasonably well.

Because of the success of the historical simulation, an attempt is made to predict future glacier retreat on the basis of two different greenhouse-gas scenarios. For a Business-as-Usual scenario, only 29% of the 1990 volume would remain in AD 2100.

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References

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