Decadal-Scale Changes of the Ödenwinkelkees, Central Austria, Suggest Increasing Control of Topography and Evolution Towards Steady State
Small mountain glaciers have short mass balance response times to climate change and are consequently very important for short-term contributions to sea level. However, a distinct research and knowledge gap exists between (1) wider regional studies that produce overview patterns and trends in glacier changes, and (2) in situ local scale studies that emphasise spatial heterogeneity and complexity in glacier responses to climate. This study of a small glacier in central Austria presents a spatiotemporally detailed analysis of changes in glacier geometry and changes in glaciological behaviour. It integrates geomorphological surveys, historical maps, aerial photographs, airborne LiDAR data, ground-based differential global positioning surveys and Ground Penetrating Radar surveys to produce three-dimensional glacier geometry at 13 time increments spanning from 1850 to 2013. Glacier length, area and volume parameters all generally showed reductions with time. The glacier equilibrium line altitude increased by 90 m between 1850 and 2008. Calculations of the mean bed shear stress rapidly approaching less than 100 kPA, of the volume-area ratio fast approaching 1.458, and comparison of the geometric reconstructions with a 1D theoretical model could together be interpreted to suggest evolution of the glacier geometry towards steady state. If the present linear trend in declining ice volume continues, then the Ödenwinkelkees will disappear by the year 2040, but we conceptualise that non-linear effects of bed overdeepenings on ice dynamics, of supraglacial debris cover on the surface energy balance, and of local topographically driven controls, namely wind-redistributed snow deposition, avalanching and solar shading, will become proportionally more important factors in the glacier net balance.