Glaciology

Most glaciers in the world are shrinking due to climate warming. Knowing how they evolve is crucial for projecting long-term water availability, planning hydroelectric infrastructure, and assessing natural hazards. We investigate glaciological processes in computer models, laboratory experiments, and field work. Our work is performed in collaboration with the external pageSwiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, to which we are jointly affilated.

General enquiries (e.g. from matura students) please contact

Field work on the Griesgletscher, Valais, Switzerland
Field work on the Griesgletscher, Valais, Switzerland.

Glacier retreat is one of the most prominent and visible consequences of ongoing climatic change. The resulting changes do not only alter our landscape, but are also linked to a series of implications such as water shortages, and natural hazards such as glacier lake outburst floods.

Our group is committed to deliver answers to pressing glaciological questions with local- to global-scale relevance, and does so by combining numerical modelling with observations gathered from both remote sensing and field-based activities.

In laboratory tests we contribute to a better understanding of fundamental processes controlling glacier hydrology and glacier motion. In field experiments, we study glacier accumulation and melt, glacier flow, and glacial erosion. We use these information and data to inform numerical computer models by which we reconstruct past glacier extents and predict their future evolution, including related consequences.

We do not only target negative aspects of glacier shrinkage but also aim at exploring new possibilities, such as the hydropower potential within formerly glacierized areas, for instance. We also analyse how improved meteorological forecasts can increase the short- and long-term glacier evolution, ultimately aiming at increasing the predictability of future water resources from high-alpine environments.

Glaciology research activities

Large Scale, Impact Research

One of the foci of the Professorship of Glaciology at VAW (VAW-Glaciology) are large-scale glacier assessments. Numerical simulations are used in combination with direct observations and climate projections to anticipate the glacier evolution of all glaciers on Earth. The so-obtained results serve to anticipate the impacts that glacier changes will have on our environment, ranging from their contribution to global sea level changes, over the water availability of glacierized basins, to the appearance of future landscapes.

Fundamental Research

The investigation of the physical processes that govern glacier evolution are a long-term strength of VAW-Glaciology. Dedicated field studies and laboratory experiments are carried out for that. The results are analysed and interpreted using theoretical and numerical models, and allow to advance the understanding of glacier-related processes at the most fundamental level.

Applied Studies and Consulting

VAW-Glaciology performs applied, glacier-related studies in the context of risk management and protection measures. Such studies are often conducted on behalf of local authorities, hydropower companies, or tourist operators. Contracted research as well as consulting are part of the portfolio.

Glacier Monitoring

For more than four decades, data on glacier variations in the Swiss Alps have been collected, evaluated, and published by VAW-Glaciology. The data belong to the longest and most extensive time series on glacier variations worldwide. The activities are currently run under the programme external pageGlacier Monitoring in Switzerland (GLAMOS), and the corresponding data are the foundation of a number of studies and research activities.

The above key topics are under continuous investigation at VAW-Glaciology. The interplay between monitoring, applied studies and basic research fosters new glaciological insights and developments.

Multimedia

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How long will Switzerland remain the water castle of Europe? (26.7.2021) in german only
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ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, along with Prof. Daniel Farinotti, other glaciologists and climate experts, on their journey across the Alps to learn how rising global temperatures are taking their toll on glaciers. (4.11.2021)
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Workshop talk: Climate change: "It's not looking good - for the glaciers." (4.12.2020) in german only

Links

external pageGlacier Monitoring in Switzerland(GLAMOS)
The Swiss glacier monitoring network.

Open Bachelor- and Master Theses
Student theses open in our group.

Glaciological Seminars
A series of talks given by international experts.

Work-In-Progress Talks and other presentations
A series of internal, technical talks (Fachgespräche) or presentations of MSc and BSc theses.

external pageGlaciology at WSL
Our group at the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research external pageWSL.

VAWiki [protected]


Contact

Prof. Dr. Daniel Farinotti

Deputy head of Lab. Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology
  • +41 44 632 54 12
  • vCard Download

ETH Zurich
Chair of Glaciology
HIA D 56.2
Hönggerbergring 26
8093 Zurich
Switzerland

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