Visualising Climate Change in Alpine Glacial Landscapes

Kieran Baxter

Research output: Other contribution


In 1909, Eduard Spelterini flew a gas-filled balloon over the Alps producing a series of glass-plate images of the Mont Blanc massif, now held in the Swiss Federal Archives. In 2017, based on these historical photographs, Baxter developed digital Photogrammetric analysis to reconstruct parts of the alpine landscape in three dimensions. The individual aerial viewpoints of Spelterini’s original photographs were located in order so that the historical path of the balloon could be traced, sequencing the images in chronological order for the first time. A helicopter was then used to return to the geolocation of photographs, and using a process called monoplotting, the precise locations from which Spelterini had taken his photographs were revisited.

In 2019, Baxter made a second alpine photographic expedition to restage Walter Mittelholzer’s 1919 famous aerial photographic documentation that included the three glaciers on the northern face of the Mont Blanc massif: Bossons, Argentière, and the Mer de Glace.

Baxter’s originality lies in the methodological approach which uses aerial Photogrammetric techniques and digital media integrated with the more traditional and commonly used method of repeat photography to create new perspectives on landscapes, revealing the change that has taken place over decades. The comparison between the historical images and those produced through this research illustrates the radical reduction in the ice surface in alpine glacial landscapes over the last century, affected by recent man-made climate change. They also reveal the human stories behind glacial landscapes in the 20th and 21st Centuries.

The research was widely disseminated through the media and documentary films, national public television channel France 5, totalling 114 articles online in 20 languages, including Sky News (Italy), New York Post and Fox News. Baxter’s research demonstrate that powerful visualisation tools can be applied to achieve greater impact when communicating specialist climate change knowledge to general audiences.
Original languageEnglish
TypeMulti Component Output
PublisherUniversity of Dundee
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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