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Influence of precipitation seasonality on glacier mass balance and its sensitivity to climate change

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Numerical calculations are described, aimed at evaluating the influence of precipitation seasonality (summer and winter) on glacier mass balance. First, equilibrium-line altitudes (ELAs) are modeled using idealized meteorological variables. Modeled climatic conditions (summer mean temperature and annual precipitation) at the ELA of glaciers located within a winter accumulation pattern confirm the observational results of earlier studies. However, the ELA of glaciers located within a summer accumulation climate pattern locates in a colder environment than that of glaciers located within a winter accumulation climate pattern. This difference is mainly due to the annual snow accumulation and the surface albedo. A warming test (+1K) reveals higher sensitivities for the glaciers located within a summer accumulation pattern than for the glaciers located within a winter accumulation pattern. In a humid environment, a significant decrease in snow accumulation on the glaciers located within a summer accumulation pattern directly causes higher sensitivities. In an arid environment, on the other hand, the decreased summer snow induces accelerated melting by lowering the surface albedo and thus increasing absorption of solar radiation on the glaciers located within a summer accumulation pattern. Both influences are due to significant differences in summer precipitation. This study shows the importance of precipitation seasonality on the climatic sensitivity of glacier mass balance, which in previous studies has been linked only with annual precipitation.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2008

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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