1 Alpine glaciers have suffered major losses of ice in the last century. We compute spatially distributed seasonal mass balances of four glaciers in the Swiss Alps (Grosser Aletschgletscher, Rhonegletscher, Griesgletscher and Silvrettagletscher) for the period 1865 to 2006. The mass balance model is forced by daily air temperature and precipitation data compiled from various long-term data series. The model is calibrated using ice volume changes derived from five to nine high-resolution digital elevation models, annual discharge data and a newly compiled data set of more than 4000 in situ measurements of mass balance covering different subperiods. The cumulative mass balances over the 142 year period vary between -35 and -97 m revealing a considerable mass loss. There is no significant trend in winter balances, whereas summer balances display important fluctuations. The rate of mass loss in the 1940s was higher than in the last decade. Our approach combines different types of field data with mass balance modeling to resolve decadal scale ice volume change observations to seasonal and spatially distributed mass balance series. The results contribute to a better understanding of the climatic forcing on Alpine glaciers in the last century.
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