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An estimation of snow accumulation on Svalbard glaciers on the basis of standard weather-station observations

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Winter precipitation in the form of snow is the major factor determining accumulation on Arctic glaciers. In this paper, I present a simple method to assess snow accumulation on the glaciers of Svalbard. I deduce snow accumulation from the sum of winter precipitation and the fraction of precipitation of different types at a reference weather station. The accumulation is then converted to a relevant point on the glacier, using an accumulation gradient and a location coefficient. I apply this algorithm of accumulation assessment to eight glaciers of southern and central Spitsbergen using data from 23 seasons. On the basis of measured accumulation data, the mean error of the calculated accumulation, with no distinction of precipitation types, amounted to 23%. When the distinction between precipitation types is used for glaciers of southern Spitsbergen, the average error of estimation was 19%. Errors result from factors influencing accumulation distribution over the glacier elevation profile (e.g. glacier topography, orography of its surroundings, precipitation inversion). Application of this accumulation algorithm may provide a crucial method of estimating mass balance for glaciers not included in permanent monitoring.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2005-08-01

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  • 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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