Mass-balance Measurements in Alaska and Suggestions for Simplified Observation Programs

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Abstract:

US Geological Survey glacier fieldwork in Alaska includes repetitious measurements, corrections for leaning or bending stakes, an ability to reliably measure seasonal snow as deep as 10 m, absolute identification of summer surfaces in the accumulation area, and annual evaluation of internal accumulation, internal ablation, and glacier-thickness changes.

Prescribed field measurement and note-taking techniques help eliminate field errors and expedite the interpretative process. In the office, field notes are transferred to computerized spreadsheets for analysis, release on the World Wide Web, and archival storage. The spreadsheets have error traps to help eliminate notetaking and transcription errors. Rigorous error analysis ends when mass-balance measurements are extrapolated and integrated with area to determine glacier and basin mass balances. Unassessable errors in the glacier and basin mass-balance data reduce the value of the data set for correlations with climate change indices.

The minimum glacier mass-balance program has at least three measurement sites on a glacier and the measurements must include the seasonal components of mass balance as well as the annual balance.

Keywords: global positioning system; mass balance; snow probing

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0435-3676.1999.00105.x

Affiliations: US Geological Survey, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA

Publication date: December 1, 1999

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