April 17, 2014

Aneto Glacier, Spain-Retreating and Disappearing

Posted by Mauri Pelto

Aneto Glacier in the Pyrenees of Spain is listed as its largest glacier in a 1984 inventory. In 1984 the glacier had an area of 1.32 square kilometers and a length of 1.6 km (Serrat and Ventura, 2005). The glacier is located on the northeast side of Aneto Peak. The glacier is just a few kilometers from the rapidly retreating Maladeta Glacier. SOER (2010) indicate that more than 80% of the glacier area on the Maladeta-Aneto Massif was lost between 1984 and 2007.
aneto area

aneto retreat map
Image from SOER (2010)

The glacier is too small to rely on our usual Landsat imagery. Here we focus on images from Google Earth and the Digital Globe. The glacier’s maximum top to bottom length by 2005 is no more than 600 meters, black dots indicate glaciers lower margin. The area in 2007 is 0.4 square kilometers by which time the glacier has developed a number of rock outcrops protruding through the thin ice. Snowcover in most images by late summer is minimal. This indicates the lack of a consistent accumulation zone, which a glacier cannot survive without (Pelto, 2010). The glacier has many exposed annual layers extending well upglacier, this is a further indication of the poor preservation of even old glacier ice. In 2005 and 2007 less than 10% of the glacier is snowcovered in the images which are not even at the end of the summer. This glacier is disappearing and like the Careser Glacier, Italy will break into several parts. The thin nature of the glacier is evident by looking up glacier from the terminus, last image from Gus Llobet (llobetgus-on Panaramio)

aneto glacier 2005
2005 Google Earth image, limited snowcover evident

aneto rock outcrops
Arrows indicate rock outcrops amidst the glacier.

aneto annual layers
2007 Digital Globe image
Annual layers of main glacier trunk in 2007aneto glacier slope
Images from Panaramio user-llobetgus