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Database of Italian glaciers

Database for reconstructing the spatial-temporal evolution of the Glacial Resource in the Italian ALPs over the last 100 years in the Framework of the NextData Project

Glaciers are widely recognized as the best terrestrial indicator of climate change. Italy has a unique, secular history of glaciological documentation that, jointly with a rich wealth of spatial, multitemporal data, allows an accurate reconstruction of recent glacier evolution. Unfortunately, these data are often scattered, largely still in paper form; they are not properly cataloged and therefore they are hard to find, to access, and to consult.
In this framework, the DATAGRALP project aims to update, computerize, organize and make easily available to the scientific community and to the stakeholders multitemporal data, referred to the last 100 years, on the Italian glacial resource.


Figure 1. The Mulinet Sud Glacier in the Lanzo Valley, in 1957 (left, photo Zucchetti) and 2006 (right, photo Rogliardo): note the retreat of the glacier front and the volume reduction that occurred in about 50 years.

For this aim, the project focuses on the collection and validation of glaciological data, on their storage through an information management system made for this purpose, and on their analysis, aimed at the reconstruction of the evolution of the Italian glaciers in the last century. 
The information collected will be used in the NextData project to contribute to a more accurate reconstruction of past climate variations and for modeling the future evolution of the Italian glacial resource, on the basis of expected climate scenarios. The knowledge thus gathered will also be made available to local authorities and to the public, for different purposes.
More specifically, the expected results of the project are as follows:
1. Development of an integrated system for the management of numerical, textual, iconographic and spatial information related the Italian glaciers, composed of a server-side database (PostgreSQL+PostGIS), connected to a web interface and to a GIS (QGIS), realized by means of free open source software and that guarantee a full interoperability with the Geoportal of the Nextdata Project, by means of the GeoNetwork architecture;  
2. An updated picture of the glacial resource in the Italian Alps, through the acquisition of the most up to date information on glaciers available free on line, including location, main geometric and morphologic parameters;
3. Reconstruction of the recent evolution of the Italian glaciers (last 100 years), through the acquisition of the main morphometric parameters for specific time periods (50s, 80s, 2006), and through the reconstruction of spatio-temporal variation of glacier front position obtained from the annual glaciological campaigns carried out by the CGI. The information will be supplemented by mass balance data, when available.
The first results achieved by the project are:
1. Development of the integrated system for the management of the information: the system consists of a server-side database (PostgreSQL) in which the PostGIS extension was loaded, which is essential for the management of geographic data. Geographic data are produced and validated by means of a Geographic Information System client side, which is also free open source (QGIS), and then entered into the database using a simple procedure of  file import. The system, composed of PostgreSQL, PostGIS and QGIS, has been connected to a website, which has also been realized by means of free open source software (Apache http server, PHP).


Figura 2. Structure (left) and web interface (right) of the information management integrated system (website:

2.   Data entry:  the data currently in the database relate to: i) the information necessary for the completion of the phase of "beta testing" (list of codes and names of glaciers, of terms describing the morphological characteristics of glaciers, of mountain ranges, list of terms describing front position, mass balances and the attachments); ii) spatial and geometric glacier data of the 50s time step; outline and spatial, geometric, and morphologic data related to the glaciers of three mountain groups, for the 2006-7 time step.



Figura 3.  A) outline of the glaciers of the Lanzo Valley as detected by the orthophotos 2006-2007 (WMS services of the National Cartographic Portal); B) example of the measurement of the geometric parameters of the glaciers; C) outline of the glaciers of the Bernina Group as detected by the orthophotos of 2006-2007 (WMS services of the National Cartographic Portal); D) outline of the Eastern Fellaria Glacier (n. 440) in the 50s (from the Italian Glacier Inventory); E) outline of the glaciers of the Aurina Valley as detected by the orthophotos of 2006-2007 (WMS services of the National Cartographic Portal).