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A Mass Balance Model that Uses Low-altitude Meteorological Observations and the Area–Altitude Distribution of a Glacier

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A glacier mass balance model that requires only low-altitude precipitation and temperature observations and the glacier's areaaltitude distribution is presented as an alternative to direct field measurements. Input to the model for South Cascade Glacier are daily weather observations at stations 30–60 km from the glacier and at altitudes 1300 to 1500 m lower than the glacier. The model relies on the internal consistency of mass balance variables that are generated by simulation using the low-altitude weather data. The daily values of such balance variables as snowline altitude, zero balance altitude, glacier balance, balance flux and the accumulation area ratio are correlated throughout the ablation season using two-degree polynomial regressions to obtain the lowest fitting error. When the minimum average error (or maximum R2) is attained, the generated balances and other variables are considered to be real. A simplex optimization technique is used to determine the optimal coefficient values that are used in algorithms to convert meteorological observations to snow accumulation and snow and ice ablation. The independently produced simulation results for the 1959–1996 period are compared with balances measured at the glacier. The agreement between annual balances for individual years is fair and between long-term volume changes measured by the geodetic method is excellent.
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Keywords: climate; glacier; glacier mass balance

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: HyMet Company, Seattle, Washington, USA

Publication date: 1999-12-01

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