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WP 1.6 Mountain criospheric resources

Alpine glaciers and snow cover are sensitive indicators of climate change. Glaciers and winter snow also represent an important source of freshwater, provided as melt water during warm summer and late spring periods, that are typically characterized by low precipitation.

A reduction of these reservoirs, already ongoing since several years, can lead to severe consequences on the availability of water and on river discharge. This WP is devoted to the implementation of a coherent information database on Italian Alpine glaciers.

Task 1. Monitoring and quantitative inventory of Alpine glaciers (quantitative and geo-referenced data mass balances, changes in the Equilibrium Line Altitude; collection of iconographic and photographic/ photogrammetric material). The task is performed in collaboration with the Italian Glaciological Committee.

Task 2. Development and validation of conceptual and/or empirical models on the dynamics of alpine glaciers. The activity involves the implementation and application of a tool to define the series and the evolution equations of the various types of Alpine glaciers, grouped by geographic (macro-areas) and geomorphological criteria. Algorithms for the application of such methodologies will be developed in GIS (Geographic Information System) environments. Physically-based modules will be implemented for the quantitative computation of the spatial variation of glacier thickness as a function of the digital terrain model. The results are crucial for the analysis and preciction of glacier evolution. A numerical module, acting as an interface with the Minimal Model Glacier in a GIS environment, will allow to reconstruct the simulated evolution of the glacier front. The case study to check the best solution for coupling GIS with a Minimal Glacier Model is the Rutor glacier (western area of Val d'Aosta). A useful description of this glacier is available as well as the possibility to define different sectors of flow lines.

Task 3. Assessment of the state and changes of the snow cover in Italian mountains (depth and duration of snow cover, Snow Water Equivalent, solid precipitation) by means of in situ data collection from available stations, coupled with the analysis of aerial imagery and satellite data.