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Effect of Uncertainties in Measured Variables on the Calculated Mass Balance of storglaciären

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Detailed mass balance measurements have been carried out on Storglaciären since 1945, adhering to a fixed system of measurements since the 1960s. Using a geographical information system approach, the effect of parameters such as density conversion model, systematic snow probing error and ablation gradient calculation on the mass balance of the glacier can be investigated. It is evident that the measure of total mass balance of Storglaciären is not sensitive to variations in these parameters. This means that reasonable estimates of the mass balance of a glacier can be made with very little information, given that measurements are distributed over the glacier surface. However, the uncertainty that may result from varying the parameters is c. 0.1 m water equivalent. Hence, reporting mass balance to centimetre or even millimetre resolution is questionable. When considering mass balance measurements as input for flow models, for example, i.e. requiring a distributed balance, the detail necessary in the measurements becomes significantly greater. At this level careful attention must be made to all parameters entering the mass balance calculation. From this it seems evident that any measurements at intermediate complexity do not increase the accuracy of the mass balance in relation to the extra work required and that the choice of method determines the scientific problems to which the data is applicable.
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Keywords: ablation stakes; drilling holes in ice; ice drill; steam drill

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Physical Geography, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden

Publication date: 1999-12-01

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