Length variation

Mass balance



The Swiss Glacier Monitoring Network

The aim of Swiss Glacier Monitoring Network is to effect long term observations of glacier variations in the Swiss Alps. The service is coordinated by the Cryospheric Commission of the Swiss Academy of Sciences (EKK/SCNAT) and maintained by the Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology at ETH Zürich (VAW/ETHZ) and the Universities of Fribourg and Zurich. The project receives long-term funding from the Federal Office for the Environment (BAFU), GCOS Schweiz Office at MeteSwiss and the Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT).


The measurements of length fluctuation carried out annually on all larger glaciers and on many of the smaller ones give an excellent overview of the variations of the Swiss Glaciers. The mass balance, volume changes and surface movements are determined on selected glaciers (Aletsch, Allalin, Clariden, Basòdino, Corbassière, Giétro, Gries, Hohlaub, Schwarzberg/Seewjinen, Silvretta, Unteraar) using more complicated methods.

Glaciers are traditionally of great scientific and economic interest in Switzerland. Glacier variations are the best indicator of climate fluctuations and glaciers as fresh water reservoirs have an important economic role (drinking water, production of hydroelectric power) as well as for the determination of flooding potential. In addition, the importance of the state of the glaciers for tourism should not be underestimated.

The data series is over one hundred years old, thanks to the ongoing efforts of cantonal forest services, federal offices, research institutes, hydropower companies, universities and individuals. The results are not only used for research purposes (improvement of process understanding, climate indicator analyses, validation of models) but also serve to estimate the direct and indirect effects of glacier variations on the environment. The results are regularly published in various forms (media releases, 'Die Alpen’, Glaciological Report).