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Anomalous heat and mass budget of Glaciar Zongo, Bolivia, during the 1997/98 El Niño year

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During El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO)warm events, outer tropics glaciers usually experience a deficit of precipitation, an increase of air temperature and a strongly negative mass balance. At Glaciar Zongo, Bolivia, this was particularly striking during the vigorous 1997/98 El Niño event, one of the strongest of the century, and which resulted in an annual depth of runoff two-thirds higher than normal. We compare the energy balance on the glacier between two contrasting cycles, 1996/97 (La Niña year) and 1997/98 (El Niño year). Due to a 1.3°C increase of annual mean air temperature, the sensible-heat flux slightly increases from 6.1 to 9.8 W m−2. During the El Niño year, sublimation is reduced, leaving more energy for melting (LE = −18.1W m−2 in 1996/97 and LE = −11.6 W m−2 in 1997/98). The main factor responsible for the dramatic increase in melting is the net all-wave radiation, which is three times higher in 1997/98 than in 1996/97 (48.7 and 15.8 W m−2, respectively). This sharp increase of net all-wave radiation is related to the decrease of albedo due to the precipitation deficit.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2001

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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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