Mass Balance Factsheet for the Ciardoney glacier, Alps
The Ciardoney glacier lies at 2870-3120 m of altitude in Gran Paradiso National Park (Western Italian Alps), at the top of an East-North-East exposed cirque. Its surface is 0,51 km2 (2019 survey). The first measurements of front variations date back to the 1970s, then regular observations was resumed in 1986 by Luca Mercalli and Fulvio Fornengo in the framework of the observation campaigns of the Italian Glaciological Committee. In 1992 mass balance measurements also began, and they continue today by Italian Meteorological Society. It is the third mass balance series by length in the Italian Alps after those of the Careser glaciers (Ortles-Cevedale group, since 1967) and Sforzellina (Gavia valley, since 1987). In over thirty years of surveys, annual mass losses have almost always prevailed due to strong summer warming (+0,7 °C/decade in Gran Paradiso range, 1994-2021 period), and the average (negative) balance has increased from -1,0 m/year in 1992-2002 to -1,6 m/year in 2003-2022.
Mass balance is performed with direct/glaciological method through a network of five ablatometric stakes, but in 2019 a first geodetic balance test was carried out using a drone. 2021-22 was the worst hydrological year for the glacier, with a retreat of the front of 30 m and a mass balance of -4,0 m.
Three out of four years on average, in late-summer the Equilibrium Line Altitude (ELA) is higher than the maximum altitude of the glacier (about 3120 m), which as a consequence is in strong climate imbalance, snow-free, debris-covered and crossed by deep epiglacial streams (bédières).
In 2015 a ground penetrating radar survey (GPR) revealed an average ice thickness of 20 m (locally 60-70 m in the central area), which has already significantly reduced in the meantime.
Since the end of the Little Ice Age (mid-19th century) the glacier surface shrunk by 70% due to an increase in average temperature of over 2 °C, and under current climatic conditions extinction is likely around 2050, or even sooner if – as expected – temperatures increase further.
In August 2010 an automatic weather station equipped with a webcam was installed on the plain in front of the glacier, at 2850 m.
Ciardoney is one of the 57 glaciers remaining in the Gran Paradiso National Park, where total glacierized area is 29 km2 (5 km2 in Piedmont and 24 km2 in Aosta Valley, 2015-2019 surveys), reduced by 67% in two centuries.
For additional information on the status of the glacier and on data relating to annual mass balance and other measurements, visit the WGMS Fluctuations of Glaciers Browser.
- Political unit: IT
- WGMS ID: 1264
- Latitude: 45.52°N
- Longitude: 7.39°E
- Height min: 2870 m a.s.l.
- Height max: 3120 m a.s.l.
- Measurement types: MASS BALANCE, THICKNESS CHANGE & FRONT VARIATION
- Current Principal Investigator: Luca Mercalli & Daniele Cat Berro
- Current Sponsoring Agency: Società Meteorologica Italiana (SMI), in the framework of Comitato Glaciologico Italiano field campaignes (CGI)
Terrestrial and satellite map of Ciardoney glacier (Google Maps)