Precipitation–temperature changes and evolution of a small glacier in the southeastern European Alps during the last 90 years


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January 2014


Very small glaciers (area <0.1 km2) have received increased scientific attention during recent years, both for their rapid responses to the climate forcing and because they are characterized by microclimatic conditions, often marginal to glacier formation. They are particularly sensitive to climate changes and characterized by a great mass turnover, particularly evident in maritime areas with high precipitation. Here we consider the evolution from 1920 of the ‘Canin Eastern Glacier’ (Italian Southeastern Alps) in order to correlate its evolution to the precipitation–temperature trends. We reconstructed a precipitation–temperature record at the altitude of the glacier, filling a lack of knowledge in this alpine sector. We observed a decrease in the mean annual precipitation of 10% in 90 years and a warming trend of 0.1°C decade−1 since 1851, and of 0.7°C decade−1 in the last 20 years. An inverse correlation between precipitation and mean air temperature during summer and ablation periods was also observed. Glacier dynamics revealed a phase of stability between 1945 and 1985 that seems to be a peculiar characteristic of this area. Moreover, through a general regression model the glacial terminus variations seem to be statistically influenced only by winter precipitation. This fact opens interesting perspectives for the possible future evolution of this small glacier and, more in general, to other small glaciers in maritime areas in regard to climate change scenarios.


Very Small Glaciers, Climatology, Precipitation, Climate Change, Temperature, General Regression Model

Document Type



International Journal of Climatology, Vol. 35, no. 10 (2014).