Short-term velocity variations of three rock glaciers and their relationship with meteorological conditions

V. Wirz, S. Gruber, R. S. Purves, J. Beutel, I. Gärtner-Roer, S. Gubler, A. Vieli
2015 Earth Surface Dynamics Discussions  
In recent years, strong variations in the speed of rock glaciers have been detected, raising questions about their stability in a changed climate. In this study, we present continuous time series over three years of surface velocities of six GPS stations located on three rock glaciers in Switzerland. Intra-annual velocity variations are analyzed in relation to local meteorological factors, such as precipitation, snow(melt), as well as air and ground surface temperatures. A main focus of this
more » ... dy lies on the abrupt velocity peaks, which have been detected at two steep and fast moving rock glacier tongues. <br><br> The continuous measurements with high temporal resolution revealed that all rock glaciers experience clear intra-annual variations in movement where the timing and the amplitude is rather similar between individual years. The seasonal decrease in velocity was typically smooth, starting one to three months after the seasonal decrease in temperatures, and was stronger in years with colder temperatures in mid winter. The seasonal acceleration always started during the zero curtain period, often was abrupt and rapid compared to the winter deceleration, and at two stations it was interrupted by short velocity peaks, occurring immediately after high water input from snowmelt or heavy precipitation. The findings of this study suggest that both, the seasonal acceleration and the short velocity peaks are strongly influenced by water infiltration, causing thermal advection and increase in pore water pressure, and that likely no velocity peak was solely caused by high temperatures. In contrast, the amount of deceleration in winter seems to be mainly controlled by winter temperatures.
doi:10.5194/esurfd-3-459-2015 fatcat:hlgdhgjysfgvhasgocpjepm2oa