Source: Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Rock glaciers are enigmatic landforms composed of mixtures of rock and ice that behave in a manner distinct from debris-free glaciers. The insulating properties of the rock debris contained within a rock glacier make these features resistant to climatic warming, but their evolution is poorly understood.
Cusicanqui et al.  present, in unprecedented detail, an elegant investigation of the geometry and dynamics of Laurichard rock glacier in France. It spans nearly seven decades and provides a benchmark for future studies of these features.
The results demonstrate that while the net annual mass turnover of Laurichard rock glacier is close to zero, it is experiencing significant change—losing mass from the upper and middle sections while the lower section has advanced by over ten meters. The flow of the rock glacier is so slow, at less than one meter per year, that these recent changes may represent a response to cooling during the Little Ice Age about 200 years ago. However, an acceleration in rock glacier flow after the 1990s observed here and elsewhere in the European Alps is likely driven by increasing basal temperatures arising from recent climatic heating.
Citation: Cusicanqui, D., Rabatel, A., Vincent, C., Bodin, X., Thibert, E., & Francou, B. . Interpretation of volume and flux changes of the Laurichard rock glacier between 1952 and 2019, French Alps. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 126, e2021JF006161. https://doi.org/10.1029/2021JF006161
—Ann Rowan, Associate Editor, JGR: Earth Surface
Text © 2021. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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