Exploring the Alps: A 4EU+ collaborative research on a newly emerged glacial lake

Dive into the findings of 4EU+ students who, thanks to a CU student mini-grant, studied a newly discovered glacial lake in the Swiss Alps. Explore their research methods, insights, and the collaborative spirit of their expedition in the following report.

By Aayushi Pandey

Glacial lakes, expanding due to the impacts of climate change, pose a significant threat to communities in and around mountainous regions. Recently, a new ephemeral glacial lake appeared near the Gorner Glacier in Switzerland's Monte Rosa Massif. Through satellite imagery, we were able to identify and study this lake. Our findings on the lake's evolution were subsequently published in the Cambridge University Press.

The primary objective of our project was to understand the dynamics of this lake basin and other glacial lakes in the area. We aimed to gather data to develop a method for estimating lake depth using remote sensing data. To achieve this, we organised an international interdisciplinary field trip from 4 to 6 August. During this expedition, we conducted bathymetric measurements on two glacial lakes near the Gorner Glacier. Additionally, high-resolution images of the now-empty lake basin were captured using a drone.

Prior to this, Dr. Lukas Brodský from the Department of Geoinformatics and Cartography coordinated another field trip under a CU 4EU+ academic mini-grant in which I could also participate. Together with colleagues from the University of Milano and Heidelberg University, we conducted measurements on two additional lakes near the Belvedere Glacier, situated in another part of the Monte Rosa Massif.

Project's outcomes

  1. This 4EU+ project provided me with a unique opportunity to bring people together from different disciplines to stimulate mutual learning, to share best practices, and to strengthen resilience.

  2. The fieldwork laid a foundation for my future research in remote sensing and cryosphere studies.

  3. The seminar at Macugnaga (close to Belvedere Glacier) facilitated knowledge exchange and insightful discussions among people working in similar fields. The bathymetric data acquired from glacial lakes support the hypothesis that smaller lakes can have greater depths.

  4. The measured bathymetry data will help me to improve a method for the estimation of lake depths using parameters derived from remote sensing.

  5. Drone images will provide information on the volume of the drained lake basin and on the area's temporal changes.

Looking ahead

Our future plans include further limnological measurements, devising a scaling formula for estimating lake depths in areas prone to Glacial Lake Outburst Floods, and installing a time-lapse camera at Locce Lake.

Participants' testimonials

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