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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2017-66
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
04 May 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).
Impact of impurities and cryoconite on the optical properties of the Morteratsch glacier (Swiss Alps)
Biagio Di Mauro1, Giovanni Baccolo2,3, Roberto Garzonio1, Claudia Giardino4, Dario Massabò5,6, Andrea Piazzalunga7, Micol Rossini1, and Roberto Colombo1 1Remote Sensing of Environmental Dynamics Laboratory, Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, University of Milano-Bicocca, 20126 Milan, Italy
2Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, University of Milano-Bicocca, 20126 Milan, Italy
3National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN), Section of Milano-Bicocca, Milan, Italy
4Institute for Electromagnetic Sensing of the Environment, National Research Council of Italy, Milan, Italy
5Department of Physics, University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy
6National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN), Genoa, Italy
7Water & Life Lab SRL, Entratico (BG), Italy
Abstract. The amount of reflected energy by snow and ice plays a fundamental role in their melting processes. Different non-ice materials (carbonaceous particles, mineral dust, microorganisms, algae etc.) can decrease the reflectance of snow and ice promoting the melt. The object of this paper is to assess the capability of field and satellite (EO-1 Hyperion) hyperspectral data to characterize the impact of light-absorbing impurities on the surface reflectance of ice and snow of the Vadret da Morteratsch, a large valley glacier in the Swiss Alps. The spatial distribution of both narrow-band and broad-band indices derived from Hyperion was analyzed in relation to ice and snow impurities. In situ and laboratory reflectance spectra were acquired to characterize the optical properties of ice and cryoconite samples. The concentrations of Elemental Carbon (EC), Organic Carbon (OC) and Levoglucosan were also determined to characterize the impurities found in cryoconite. Multi-wavelength absorbance spectra were measured to compare the optical properties of cryoconite samples and local moraine sediments. In situ reflectance spectra showed that the presence of impurities reduced ice reflectance in visible wavelengths of 80–90 %. Satellite data also showed the outcropping of dust during the melting season in the upper parts of the glacier, revealing that seasonal input of atmospheric dust can decrease the reflectance also in the accumulation zone of the glacier. The presence of EC and OC in cryoconite samples suggests a relevant role of carbonaceous and organic material in the darkening of the ablation zone. This darkening effect is added to that caused by fine debris from lateral moraines, assumed to represent a large fraction of cryoconite. Possible input of anthropogenic activity cannot be excluded and further researches are needed to assess the role of human activities in the darkening process of glaciers observed in recent years.

Citation: Di Mauro, B., Baccolo, G., Garzonio, R., Giardino, C., Massabò, D., Piazzalunga, A., Rossini, M., and Colombo, R.: Impact of impurities and cryoconite on the optical properties of the Morteratsch glacier (Swiss Alps), The Cryosphere Discuss., https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2017-66, in review, 2017.
Biagio Di Mauro et al.
Biagio Di Mauro et al.
Biagio Di Mauro et al.

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Short summary
In the paper, we demonstrate the potential of field and satellite hyperspectral reflectance data in characterizing the spatial distribution of impurities on the Morteratsch glacier. In situ reflectance spectra showed that impurities reduce of 80–90 % the reflectance of ice in visible wavelengths. Satellite data also showed the outcropping of dust during the melting season in the upper parts of the glacier. Laboratory measurements of cryoconite showed the presence of elemental and organic carbon.
In the paper, we demonstrate the potential of field and satellite hyperspectral reflectance data...
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