Recent evolution (1981-2005) of the Maladeta glaciers, Pyrenees, Spain: extent and volume losses and their relation with climatic and topographic factors
Analysis of aerial photographs, GPS mapping and comparison of digital elevation models have been used to quantify the losses in extent and volume observed (1981-2005) in the glaciers of the Maladeta massif (Spanish Pyrenees). The data are examined in relation to different climatic (temperature, precipitation) and topographic factors that control glacial retreat both at the general and local scales. The evolution observed in the massif is characterized by the remarkable surface and volumetric shrinkage registered in all the glaciers: (1) glacial ice decreased in extent 35.7%, reducing from 240.9 ha to 155.0 ha; (2) losses in total ice volume reached 0.0137 km3 (75.6 m w.e.); (3) mean altitude of the studied glaciers increased 43.5 m. These changes seem to have been forced by climatic change (reduction in the snowfall contributions and increase in the maximum temperatures) during the past few decades in this Pyrenean region. In addition, local variables such as the orientation of each glacier, their altitude and their initial size seem to have induced significant spatial differences in the magnitude of the losses.