Impact of proglacial lake formation on Rhonegletscher

After the retreat of Rhonegletshcer behind behind a bedrock ridge, a proglacial lake has been forming since 2005. The formation of the lake possibly accelerates the glacier retreat because ice dissipates more by calving into the lake and enhanced basal ice flow. To investigate the impact of the lake formation on glacier evolution, we have been working on the glacier since 2007 with collaboration of ETH, Zurich. In 2008 summer field season, we drilled 24 boreholes in the terminal part of the glacier. These boreholes are used for measuring subglacial water pressure, borehole inclination and vertical strain. An accurate bedrock map was constructed from the depth of the boreholes and subglacial sediments were collected using specially designed devices. On the glacier surface, ice flow and ice melt rates are measured with high temporal and spatial resolutions. The goal of the project is to use all these data to predict the future of Rhonegletscher with the aid of numerical glacier model.

A part of the field activity was carried out with participants of Swiss glacier field course offered by Graduate School of Environmental Science, Hokkaido University. Graduate students from many different scientific fields experienced field work on a glacier. This course is also a program of International Antarctic Institute.

Field activities

A day on the glacier