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A geometric glacier model for sea-level change calculations

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Towards accounting for the dynamic response of glaciers and ice caps in the estimation of their contribution to sea-level rise due to global warming, a mass-balance degree-day model is coupled to a geometric glacier model. The ice dynamics are treated implicitly in the geometric model by using scaling parameters that have been extensively investigated in the literature. The model is tested by presenting a case-study of the glacier Hintereisferner, Austrian Alps. The results are compatible with geomorphological data and other modelling studies. An estimate is made of the volume decrease due to initial disequilibrium. An extensive sensitivity study using generalized glacier shapes and sizes allows a comparison of results with dynamic theory. According to the geometric model, glaciers with a narrowing channel change more with a change in mass balance than glaciers with a widening channel, due to their shape and the way in which that shape changes with a changing climate. Also their response time is longer. As time progresses after a mass-balance perturbation, the longer response time for continental glaciers compared to glaciers with larger mass turnover offsets the effect of their smaller static sensitivity. Thus, although for the next century we may expect greater changes in volume from alpine glaciers, the equilibrium or committed change is greater for the continental glaciers.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2000

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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