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A new index of glacier area change: a tool for glacier monitoring
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology.
2009 (English)In: Journal of Glaciology, ISSN 0022-1430, Vol. 55, no 192, 710-716 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Since the mid-19th century, most glaciers have been losing area and volume. This loss of area has not been homogeneous in time and space, and direct observations are sparse, making regional and global estimates of glacier change difficult. This paper focuses on developing a single index for monitoring glacier change, one that would be particularly useful for remote-sensing applications. We combine the results of direct glacier mass-balance observations B, total glacier area S and accumulation area S-c derived from maps or remotely sensed images. Using the accumulation-area ratio (AAR = S-c/S), we note the differences between observed AAR, time-averaged < AAR > and the equilibrium state AAR(0), as determined by its value at B = 0 from a regression of B(AAR). We suggest that alpha(d) = (< AAR > - AAR(0))/ AAR(0) quantifies the difference between the currently observed state of glaciers and their equilibrium state and measures the delay in the dynamic response of S relative to the climatic response of S-c. Using all available observations for the period 1961-2004, alpha(d) approximate to -65% for tropical glaciers, which implies their rapid shrinkage as S continues to decrease and 'catch up' with S-c. During the same period, mid-latitude and polar glaciers show less negative values Of alpha(d). Of 86 glaciers from all latitudes and regions, only 11 show positive alpha(d) at any time between 1961 and 2004. Averaged over 1961-2004, alpha(d) is -15.1 +/- 2.2%, and < B > is -360 +/- 42 mm a(-1) w.e. Values for AAR(0) range between about 40% and 80%, but the bulk of the equilibrium values are between 50% and 60%. The average AAR(0) is 57.9 +/- 0.9% and has remained stable over time (the equilibrium AAR has not changed with climate). Overall, the observed negative alpha(d) suggests a committed retreat of glaciers and their continuing contribution to sea level even if global temperature is held constant.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 55, no 192, 710-716 p.
Keyword [en]
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-36120ISI: 000270415200013OAI: diva2:288818
Available from: 2010-01-21 Created: 2010-01-21Bibliographically approved

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