Climate change adaptation study of the water resources resulting from snow and ice melt of the La Maladeta glacier using hydrological modelling

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Climate change adaptation study of the water resources resulting from snow and ice melt of the La Maladeta glacier using hydrological modelling
Thematic sectors: 
Future climate
Past and current climate
Water resources
Political sectors EU: 
water resource management
Geographic characterisation - Biogeographic region: 
Project duration: 
Adaptation initiative typology: 
Soft or non-structural measures
Type of climate impact: 
Cryosphere degradation
Water scarcity

Description of the case study

Detailed knowledge of the influence of climate change on natural resources in the form of snow and ice is essential to making progress in the conservation and adaptation of sensitive high mountain ecosystems. This research project is led by SPESA, a company specialising in these types of studies. The research applies the most advanced technology to the Maladeta glacier.

Challenges : 

The main challenge of the study is to analyse the evolution of the Maladeta glacier in more detail and over a longer period to enable more precise modelling of its future evolution. This focus stems from the importance of researching climate change scenarios to facilitate more precise regional projections which are adapted to each context and sector affected.

Objectives : 

The main objectives of the project are as follows:
- Study the accumulation and melting of ice and snow, the height, direction and slope of the glacier and its transformation into glacial run-off using ASTER distributed hydrological modelling, despite being a highly complex phenomenon which is highly sensitive to climate variations.
- Select the climate models (from the 12 existing) which can be best adapted to the study region and determine retrospectively the temperatures and precipitation levels which occurred in the park during the 1850s—a time long before the existence of climate records for the zone.
- As a transversal objective, the project will generate new knowledge on the effects of climate change on the remaining Pyrenean glaciers, with a view to making the population more aware of an issue which is of huge importance to society.

Solutions : 

The following actions (part of the basic research project) have been taken forward to improve knowledge and guide future management measures:
- Development of different climate models to estimate the future evolution of the glacier, resulting in a calculation of the glacier's remaining lifetime of up to 2040-2050 for the most plausible scenarios.
- Validation of the two climate models best adapted to the Posets-Maladeta Natural Park, contributing to the design of adaptation measures necessary for the park's conservation.
- Detailed description of the forthcoming physiographic change in the Maladeta glacier with a view to preparing managers of the Posets-Maladeta Natural Park for its future management.
- Generation of an analysis and simulation tool which can be used to analyse the future availability of water resources at other glaciers and in other mountain zones.
- Communication of the results with a focus on raising awareness among the scientific community and the general population about the effects of climate change on the remaining Pyrenean glaciers.

Importance and relevance of the adaptation : 

Case study developed, implemented and partly funded as a climate change adaptation measure.

Key words : 
Maladeta glacier
CC scenarios
climate models
Region and / or city: 
Countries involved: 
Geographical governance level : 
Organisations involved : 

SPESA INGENIERÍA, Ebro Hydrographic Confederation.

Additional Information

Stakeholder participation : 

Taken forward by SPESA INGENIERÍA in collaboration with the Ebro Hydrographic Confederation and with financial support from Fundación Biodiversidad.

Success and limiting factors : 

Success factors:
coordination between administrations via bodies such as the Board of Trustees of the Pyrenean Glaciers Natural Monument; continuity of Maladeta glacier measurements; annual timeline (broader) enables a more ambitious Publicity Plan to be designed; centenary of the Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park (collaborations with France (Ossoue Glacier)).

Cost-benefit analysis : 

The project has been awarded €32,788 in grand funding from Fundación Biodiversidad.

Legal aspects : 

Research project developed as part of the Fundación Biodiversidad announcement of grants for climate change adaptation projects.


Implementation period : 

2018 (10 months - in progress)






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