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Mountain glaciers in a changing climate

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Most glaciers in the world are shrinking due to climate warming. Knowing how they evolve is crucial for planning hydroelectric infrastructure, projecting long-term water availability, and assessing natural hazards. We investigate glaciological processes in computer models, laboratory experiments, and field work.


Glacier retreat is one of the most prominent and visible consequences of ongoing climatic change. The resulting changes do not only alter our landscape, but are also linked to a series of implications such as water shortages, and natural hazards such as glacier lake outburst floods.

In laboratory tests we contribute to a better understanding of fundamental processes controlling glacier motion and glacier hydrology. We also study glacier accumulation and melt, glacier flow, and glacial erosion in field experiments. We use these data to simulate past glacier extensions and to predict future water availability in computer models.

We target not only potentially negative aspects of shrinking glaciers, but also highlight new possibilities such as the hydropower potential in retreating glacier areas. In addition, we analyze how improved meteorological forecasts can increase the short- and long-term predictability of runoff from glaciered catchments.


Glacier research in pictures


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