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Decadal variability in climate and glacier fluctuations on Mt Baker, Washington, USA

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Climate variability in the Pacific basin has been attributed to large-scale oceanic-atmospheric modulations (e.g. the El NiƱo-Southern Oscillation (ENSO)) that dominate the weather of adjacent land areas. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and north Pacific index are thought to be indicators of modulations and events in the northeast Pacific. In this study we find that variations in the PDO are reflected in the terminus position of glaciers on Mt Baker, in the northern Cascade Range, Washington. The initiation of retreat and advance phases of six glaciers persisted for 20–30 years, which relate to PDO regime shifts. The result of this study agrees with previous studies that link glacier mass balance changes to local precipitation anomalies and processes in the Pacific. However, the use of mass balance changes and glacier terminus variation for identification of regime shifts in climate indices is complicated by the lack of standardized measuring techniques, differing response times of individual glaciers to changes in climate, geographic and morphometric factors, and the use of assorted climate indices with different domains and time-scales in the Pacific for comparison.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Publication date: 2003-03-01

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