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Static mass-balance sensitivity of Arctic glaciers and ice caps using a degree-day approach

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Future climate warming is predicted to be more pronounced in the Arctic where approximately two-thirds of all small glaciers on Earth are located. A simple mass-balance model was applied to 42 glaciers and ice caps north of 60° N to estimate mass-balance sensitivities to a hypothetical climate perturbation. The model is based on daily temperature and precipitation data from climate stations in the vicinity of each glacier and ice cap. A regression analysis was made using a degree-day approach where the annual sum of positive daily air temperatures was correlated to measured summer mass balance, and the total annual snow precipitation was correlated to measured winter mass balance. The net mass-balance sensitivity to a hypothetical temperature increase of +1 K ranged from −0.2 to −2.0 m a−1, and an assumed increase in precipitation of +10% changed the mass balance by < +0.1 to +0.4 m a−1, thus on average offsetting the effect of a temperature increase by approximately 20%. Maritime glaciers showed considerably higher mass-balance sensitivities than continental glaciers, in agreement with similar previous studies. The highest sensitivities were found in Iceland, exceeding those reported in previous studies. Extrapolating our results, glaciers and ice caps north of 60° N are estimated to contribute ∼0.6 mm a−1 K−1 to global sea-level rise. Our results highlight the value of long-term mass-balance records and meteorological records in remote areas.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2005

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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