EGU22-131, updated on 25 Mar 2022
EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Topographic conditions for the formation of glaciers and perennial snow patches in the northern Japanese Alps

Kenshiro Arie1 and Chiyuki Narama2
Kenshiro Arie and Chiyuki Narama
  • 1Graduate School of Science and Technology, Niigata University 8050, Ikarashi 2-no-cho, Nishi-ku, Niigata, 950-2181, Japan (
  • 2Program of Field Research in the Environmental Sciences, Niigata University,8050 Igarashi2-Cho, Nishi-Ku, Niigata, 950-2181, Japan (

In the northern Japanese Alps, more than 100 perennial snow patches exist (Higuchi and Iozawa, 1971).Recently, several groups measured the ice thickness and horizontal flow velocity of seven perennial snow patches in the region, finding them to be active glaciers (e.g., Arie et al., 2019). As they are less than 0.5 km2 in area, they are classified as very small glaciers (VSGs). According to Arie et al. (2021), who observed the mass balance using geodetic methods from 2015 to 2019, 1) the fluctuation of the annual mass balance of Japanese VSGs was highly dependent on yearly fluctuation in accumulation depth, 2) the mass balance amplitude was the largest of all glaciers in the world recorded by WGMS, 3) VSGs can be formed only in terrains where avalanches and snowdrifts can acquire more than double the snowfall. However, for avalanches and snowdrifts in 3), the specific topographic conditions that indicate the magnitude of these contributions are not clear. Hughes (2009) found that the contribution of avalanches to the glacier is large where the "avalanche ratio," which is the ratio of total avalanche discharge area to total glacier area, is high.
In this study, we compared the avalanche ratio, distribution altitude, and slope direction of the seven confirmed VSGs, seven large perennial snow patches (over 10,000 m²), and three small perennial snow patches (under 1000 m²) to show the topographic conditions for the formation of glaciers and perennial snow patches in the northern Japanese Alps. As a result, there was a positive correlation between the average snow depth of VSGs calculated by the geodetic method from 2015 to 2021 and the avalanche ratio. A negative correlation was seen between the avalanche ratio and distribution altitude in the VSGs, and the lower the altitude, the higher the avalanche ratio. In addition, the relationship between avalanche ratio and distribution altitude showed that the avalanche ratio of VSGs and large perennial snow patches were larger than that of small perennial snow patches at the same altitude. The avalanche ratio of Ikenotan Glacier, which is the only glacier on the windward slope with no snowdrift, was more than twice as large as that of VSGs at the same altitude. These results suggest that the magnitude of the contribution of avalanche and snowdrift deposition and the distribution altitude determine the size of glaciers and perennial snow patches.
Arie, K., Narama, C., Fukui, K., Iida, H. and Takahashi, K.: Ice thickness and flow of the Karamatsuzawa perennial snow patch in the northern Japanese Alps, Journal of the Japanese Society of Snow and Ice, 81(6), 283–295, doi:10.5331/seppyo.81.6_283, 2019.
Arie, K., Narama, C., Yamamoto, R., Fukui, K. and Iida, H.: Characteristics of mountain glaciers in the northern Japanese Alps, cryosphere, 1–28, doi:10.5194/tc-2021-182, 2021.
Higuchi, K. and Iozawa, T.: Atlas of perennial snow patches in central Japan, Water Research Laboratory. Faculty of Science, Nagoya University., 1971.
Hughes, P. D.: Twenty-first Century Glaciers and Climate in the Prokletije Mountains, Albania, Arct. Antarct. Alp. Res., 41(4), 455–459, 2009.

How to cite: Arie, K. and Narama, C.: Topographic conditions for the formation of glaciers and perennial snow patches in the northern Japanese Alps, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-131,, 2022.


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