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Instruments and Methods

Glaciological and volumetric mass-balance measurements: error analysis over 51 years for Glacier de Sarennes, French Alps

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The mass balance of Glacier de Sarennes, French Alps, has been measured since 1949, using the glaciological method based on core and ablation stake data, and area extrapolations, to find the overall glacier balance. The cumulative balance obtained in this way is very dependent on systematic errors that can increase linearly with the number, N, of measurement years, whereas random errors rise with √N. The volumetric−balance method based on aerial photogrammetry provides results whose errors do not depend on the number of years. This method was used to test field measurements for the period 1952–2003 and gives a mass balance of −32.30±1.04 m w.e. compared to −34.89±1.15 m w.e. based on field data. The discrepancy between the two methods is discussed on the basis of a careful error analysis. Moreover, the possibility of using the volumetric method to detect biases in field measurements is evaluated in terms of two types of errors. The number and locations of measurement sites required to account for all the spatial and temporal variabilities of the mass balance is discussed by variance analysis. Methodological implications and recommendations are presented to provide massbalance measurements of the best possible accuracy.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3189/002214308785837093

Publication date: July 1, 2008

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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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