17 Feb 2022
17 Feb 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

Rescue and homogenisation of 140 years of glacier mass balance data in Switzerland

Lea Geibel1,2, Matthias Huss1,2,3, Claudia Kurzböck1,2, Elias Hodel1,2, Andreas Bauder1,2, and Daniel Farinotti1,2 Lea Geibel et al.
  • 1Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology, ETH Zürich
  • 2Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), Birmensdorf, Switzerland
  • 3Department of Geosciences, University of Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland)

Abstract. Glacier monitoring in Switzerland has resulted in some of the longest and most complete data series globally. Mass balance observations at individual locations, starting in the 19th century, are the backbone of the monitoring as they represent the raw and original glaciological data demonstrating the response of snow accumulation and snow/ice melt to changes in climate forcing. So far, however, the variety of sources of historic measurements has not been systematically processed and documented. Here, we present a new complete and extensive point glacier mass balance dataset for the Swiss Alps that provides attributes for data quality and corresponding uncertainties. Original sources were digitized or re-assessed to validate or to correct existing entries and to identify metadata. The sources of data are highly diverse and stem from almost 140 years of records, originating from handwritten field notes, unpublished project documents, various digital sources, published reports, as well as meta-knowledge of the observers. The project resulted in data series with metadata for 63 individual Swiss glaciers, including more than 60'000 point observations of mass balance. Data were systematically analyzed and homogenized, e.g. by supplementing partly missing information based on correlations inferred from direct measurements. A system to estimate uncertainty in all individual observations was developed indicating that annual point balance is measured with a typical error of 0.07 m water equivalent (w.e.), while the average error in winter snow measurements is 0.20 m w.e. Our dataset permits further investigating the climate change impacts on Swiss glaciers. Results show an absence of long-term trends in snow accumulation over glaciers, while melt rates have substantially increased over the last three decades.

Lea Geibel et al.

Status: open (extended)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on essd-2022-56', Mauri Pelto, 10 Mar 2022 reply

Lea Geibel et al.

Data sets

Swiss Glacier Point Mass Balance Observations (release 2021) GLAMOS - Glacier Monitoring Switzerland

Lea Geibel et al.


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Short summary
Glacier monitoring in Switzerland started in the 19th century providing an exceptional dataset documenting the impact of climate change. Raw point observations of surface mass balance have however never been systematically compiled so far, including complete metadata. Here, we present an extensive dataset with more than 60’000 measurement point, covering 60 Swiss glaciers and almost 140 years promoting a better understanding of the drivers of recent glacier change.