EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Basal thermal regime investigations at Whymper hanging Glacier (Aosta Valley – Italy)

Fabrizio Troilo1, Perret Paolo1, Simone Gottardelli1, Luca Mondardini1, Daniele Giordan2, Niccolò Dematteis2, Luc Piard3, Olivier Gagliardini3, Adrien Gilbert3, and Christian Vincent3
Fabrizio Troilo et al.
  • 1Mountain Safety Foundation, Glaciers and Permafrost Office, Courmayeur, Italy (
  • 2Istituto di Ricerca per la Protezione Idrogeologica - Geohazard Monitoring Group, Consiglio Nazionale Delle Ricerche, Torino, Italy (
  • 3Institut des Géosciences de l'Environnement - Departement Glaciologie, Université Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble, France (

The Grandes Jorasses Massif culminates at 4203m at the Punta Walker summit on the border between France and Italy. The south slope of Grandes Jorasses is widely glaciated and overlies the Val Ferret, a populated and highly frequented area presenting different hamlets, the most important being Planpincieux village. Located at an altitude between 4000 and 4100 m, the Whymper Serac is a hanging glacier that undergoes periodic gravity-driven instabilities. On 1st June of 1998, 150.000m3 of ice fell, and the resulting ice avalanche reached 1750m, at a distance of about 400m from houses of the Le Pont village and the main road. The monitoring activity started in 1997: a  series of boreholes had been drilled to assess the basal thermal regime of the serac and subsequently install a monitoring system for early warning signs and risk assessment

In September 2020, three thermistor chains in three different boreholes were installed on Whymper Serac. Temperature profiles were measured at different periods between October and November 2020. In September 2021 another three thermistor chains were installed and their temperature profile measured in October 2021. During the same survey, temperature profiles of the 2020 thermistors could be measured again on 2 out of 3 boreholes, (one being too close to the serac front was not safe to reach) confirming data acquired on the 2020 field campaign. The outcome of basal temperature measurements of 2020 and 2021 give good spatial coverage of the serac allowing comparison with data from the 1997 measurements, despite on the fact that most of the ice mass fell in 1998.

A warming trend in most of the temperature profiles is evident in comparison whith 1997 data; 5 out of 6 points of measure still show temperatures below 0° C. One point of measure shows evidence of temperate ice at the ice/bedrock interface. Whymper Serac measurements provide evidence that the glacier is still frozen to the bedrock, but one part of the serac shows the beginning of a potential transition from cold based regime to temperate based regime. If, on one hand, surface displacements of the ice mass still show low displacements (typical of a cold based glacier), on the other hand, a velocity anomaly was detected on a small portion of the serac corresponding to the temperate based sector. Further research is needed to better understand the evolution of the thermo-mechanical conditions of the Whymper Serac in the current climate change scenarios. Therefore, thermo-mechanical modeling of the Whymper Serac is underway, based on the Elmer/Ice model.

How to cite: Troilo, F., Paolo, P., Gottardelli, S., Mondardini, L., Giordan, D., Dematteis, N., Piard, L., Gagliardini, O., Gilbert, A., and Vincent, C.: Basal thermal regime investigations at Whymper hanging Glacier (Aosta Valley – Italy), EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-7208,, 2022.


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