Quantifying the effects of climate and surface change on glacier mass balance

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When a mass balance is computed using an outdated map, that computa- tion does not reveal the actual mass change. But older maps often must be used for practical reasons. We present a method bywhich, with a few additional measurements each year, a mass balance computed with an outdated map can be transformed into an actual mass change. This is done bytaking into account the influence of changes in areal extent and changes in the surface elevation of the glacier since the map was made. This method is applied to South Cascade Glacier, Washington, U.S.A., as an example. The computed cumulative mass balance from 1970 to 1997 would have been 16% too negative if the 1970 map had not been updated. While the actual volume change of a glacier is relevant to hydro-logical studies, the change that would have occurred on a constant (or static) surface is more relevant to certain glacier dynamics problems and most climate problems. We term this the reference-surface balance and propose that such a balance, which deliberatelyomits the influence of changes in area and surface elevation, is better correlated to climatic variations than the conventional one, which incorporates those influences.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3189/172756501781831783

Publication date: December 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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