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Effect of summer snowfall on glacier mass balance

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t has been postulated that heavy summer snowfalls have a large impact on the mass balance of mid-latitude glaciers, because they simultaneously add mass to the glacier and reduce the amount of absorbed solar radiation. An automatic weather station (AWS) on the snout of Morteratschgletscher, Switzerland, registered a large summer snowfall event on 10–11 July 2000. Sonic rangers recorded about 20 cm of new snow on the snout and about 50 cm near the equilibrium line. We have used data from the AWS to study the impact on the melt process. The data show that in the ablation zone of the glacier the snow has melted and the effect on the albedo has disappeared after about 5 days. The suppression of the melt by the high albedo of the fresh snow is an important effect. For the ablation zone we find a feedback factor of about four, that is, the total effect of the snowfall event on the annual specific balance is about four times the amount of mass added during the event. We have also used a mass-balance model with 25 m spatial resolution to assess the impact of the snowfall on the net balance of the entire glacier. We find the strongest effects just below the equilibrium line. Averaged over the glacier, the amount of snow deposited was 224 mm w. e. The calculated effect on the total mass balance of the glacier is 354 mm w.e.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-01-01

More about this publication?
  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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