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Modelling the impact of superimposed ice on the mass balance of an Arctic glacier under scenarios of future climate change

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A surface-energy/mass-balance model with an explicit calculation of meltwater refreezing and superimposed ice formation is applied to midre Lovénbreen, Spitsbergen, Svalbard. The model is run with meteorological measurements to represent the present climate, and run with scenarios taken from global climate model predictions based on the IS92a emissions scenario to represent future climates. Model results indicate that superimposed ice accounts for on average 37% of the total net accumulation under present conditions. The model is found to be highly sensitive to changes in the mean annual air temperature and much less sensitive to changes in the total annual precipitation. A 0.5°C decade−1 temperature increase is predicted to cause an average mass-balance change of −0.43 m a−1, while a 2% decade−1 increase in precipitation will result in only a +0.02 m a−1 change in mass balance. An increase in temperature results in a significant decrease in the size of the accumulation area at midre Lovénbreen and hence a similar decrease in the net volume of superimposed ice. The model predicts, however, that the relative importance of superimposed ice will increase to account for >50% of the total accumulation by 2050. The results show that the refreezing of meltwater and in particular the formation of superimposed ice make an important positive contribution to the mass balance of midre Lovénbreen under present conditions and will play a vital future role in slowing down the response of glacier mass balance to climate change.

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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