On the Imbalance and Response Time of Glaciers in the European Alps

Harry Zekollari*, Matthias Huss, Daniel Farinotti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
45 Downloads (Pure)


Glaciers in the European Alps rapidly lose mass to adapt to changes in climate conditions. Here, we investigate the relationship and lag between climate forcing and geometric glacier response with a regional glacier evolution model accounting for ice dynamics. The volume loss occurring as a result of the glacier-climate imbalance increased over the early 21st century, from about 35% in 2001 to 44% in 2010. This committed loss reduced to ~40% by 2018, indicating that temperature increase was outweighing glacier retreat in the early 2000s but that the fast retreat effectively somewhat diminished glacier imbalances. We analyze the lag in glacier response for each individual glacier and find mean response times of 50 ± 28 years. Our findings indicate that the response time is primarily controlled by glacier slope and secondarily by elevation range and mass balance gradient, rather than by glacier size.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2019GL085578
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • alps
  • climate change
  • dynamics
  • glacier
  • response time


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