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Derivation of melt factors from glacier mass-balance records in western Canada

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Melt factors for snow (ks) and ice (ki) were derived from specific mass-balance data and regionally interpolated daily air-temperature series at nine glaciers in the western Cordillera of Canada. Fitted ks and ki were relatively consistent across the region, with mean values (standard deviations) of 3.04 (0.38) and 4.59 (0.59) mm d−1 °C−1, respectively. The interannual variability of melt factors was investigated for two long-term datasets. Calculated annually, snow- and ice-melt factors were relatively stable from year to year; standard deviations for snowmelt factors were 0.48 (17%) and 0.42 (18%) at Peyto and Place Glaciers, respectively, while standard deviations of ice-melt factors were 1.17 (25%) and 0.81 (14%). While fitted values of ks are comparable to those presented in previous observational and modeling studies, fitted ki are substantially and consistently lower across the region. Fitted melt factors were sensitive to the choice of lapse rate used in the air-temperature interpolation. Melt factors fitted to mass-balance data from a single site (Place Glacier) provided reasonable summer balance predictions at most other sites representing both maritime and continental climates, although there was a tendency for under-prediction at several sites. The combination of regionally interpolated air temperatures and a degree-day model appears capable of generating first-order estimates of regional summer balance, which can provide a benchmark against which to judge the predictive ability of more complex (e.g. energy balance) models applied at a regional scale. Mass-balance sensitivity analyses indicate that a temperature increase of 1 K will increase summer ablation in the region by 0.51 m w.e.a−1 on average.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: February 1, 2009

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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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