Adrian Martinez Fernandezspecialized technician in charge of the Digital Cartography and 3D Analysis Laboratory of the National Center for Research on Human Evolution (CENIEH), leads an article published in the journal Land degradation and development about the surface development and possible disappearance of the Maladeta, one of the largest glaciers in southern Europeand with around 30 hectares, among the three largest on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees.
The results obtained show an average retreat speed of the glacier front of more than 50 meters per year and average ice thickness losses of about 7 m (-0.7 m/year) in just 10 years, as well as the disappearance between 2019 and 2020, of just under two hectares (20,000 m²).2) of the glacier surface, measured in the first campaign in 2010.
“If this pace continues, it is estimated that the Aragonese glacier de la Maladeta could disappear at the end of the next decade, as has already happened with other glaciers. More than 60% of the Pyrenean glaciers that existed in the mid-19th century have already been lost,” emphasizes Martínez.
More than 60% of the Pyrenees glaciers that existed in the mid-19th century have already been lost.
Connection to the global climate system
The systematic observation of glaciers has been of particular interest for decades due to their connection to the global climate system. Understanding the behavior of these environments, which are sensitive to climate fluctuations, helps to understand and Climate change modeleither.
However, that is Quantitative data generation In temperate high mountain regions such as the Pyrenees it is not as common as in other European mountain regions.
The information about this glacier of the Aragonese Pyrenees comes from the application of Geomatic techniques to document the ice and snow surface of its glacier front. Techniques that, like the glacier, have evolved over the 10 years of monitoring with different equipment: total stations, GNSS devices, terrestrial laser scanners and drones.
With the help of drones
The research group began the measurements using traditional topographic equipment such as total stations, but in recent campaigns drones have become more important, allowing much more detailed and comprehensive information to be recorded about the glacier front: “We have obtained relevant information about the deterioration of the cryosphere in the high mountains of the Pyrenees with a precision and detail that is unusual in the study of glaciers over such a long period of time,” comments Adrián Martínez Fernández.
We obtained relevant information about the degradation of the cryosphere in the Pyrenean High Mountains with a precision and detail that is unusual in the study of glaciers over such a long period of time.
This study is the result of a collaboration between CENIEH and the Recognized Natural Heritage and Applied Geography Research Group (GIR PANGEA) of the University of Valladolid, which has been leading the monitoring work since 2010 with the support of the University of Extremadura. Together with researchers from Daran, the universities of Cantabria, León, the Basque Country and the CSIC Pyrenean Institute of Ecology took part.