Alpine glaciers respond to climate imbalance by adjusting their mass and length. In turn, these changes modify the glacial and periglacial environment, leading to increased supraglacial debris cover, the development of glacial lakes and glacier fragmentation. In this research, we investigated the evolution of Lys Glacier (Monte Rosa Group), by studying length, area and volume changes, and evolution of its supraglacial debris cover and proglacial lakes by means of historical sources and high-resolution aerial and satellite orthophotos. Lys Glacier retreated almost continuously, by nearly 2 km, from its maximum Little Ice Age position. More recently, the glacier lost 11.91% of its area between 1975 and 2014 and underwent fragmentation in 2009. Over the same period, glacier fragmentation and tongue stagnation affected the formation and rapid growth of a series of ice-contact lakes and led to a non-linear debris cover evolution. The glacier was also subjected to strong volume losses, with more than 135 m thinning on the ablation tongue from 1991 to 2014. Analysis of the meteorological records (1927–present) from the closest weather station reveals a considerable increase in average annual temperatures by more than 1°C from the mean of 1971–1989 to the mean of 1990–2017.
Part of the book: Glaciers and the Polar Environment