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On the characterization of glacier response by a single time-scale

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Glacier response to climate can be characterized by a single time-scale when the glacier changes sufficiently slowly. Then the derivative of volume with respect to area defines a thickness scale similar to that of Jóhannesson and others, and the time-scale follows from it. Our version of the time-scale is different from theirs because it explicitly includes the effect of surface elevation on mass-balance rate, which can cause a major increase in the time-scale or even lead to unstable response. The time constant has a dual role, controlling both the rate and magnitude ofresponse to a given climate change. Data from South Cascade Glacier, Washington, U.S.A., illustrate the ideas, some of the difficulty in obtaining accurate values for the thickness and time-scales, and the susceptibility ofall response models to potentially large errors.

Document Type: Research Article


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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