Decay of a long-term monitored glacier: Careser Glacier (Ortles-Cevedale, European Alps)
The continuation of valuable, long-term glacier observation series is threatened by the accelerated mass loss which currently affects a large portion of so-called "benchmark" glaciers. In this work we present the evolution of the Careser Glacier, from the beginning of systematic observation at the end of the 19th century to its current condition in 2012. In addition to having one of the longest and richest observation records among the Italian glaciers, Careser is unique in the Italian Alps for its 46 yr mass balance series that started in 1967. In the present study, variations in the length, area and volume of the glacier since 1897 are examined, updating and validating the series of direct mass balance observations and adding to the mass balance record into the past using the geodetic method. The glacier is currently strongly out of balance and in rapid decay; its average mass loss rate over the last 3 decades was 1.5 m water equivalent per year, increasing to 2.0 m water equivalent per year in the last decade. Although these rates are not representative at a regional scale, year-to-year variations in mass balance show an unexpected increase in correlation with other glaciers in the Alps, during the last 3 decades. If mass loss continues at this pace, the glacier will disappear within a few decades, putting an end to this unique observation series.