Temperature and precipitation climate at the equilibrium-line altitude of glaciers expressed by the degree-day factor for melting snow

  • Braithwaite R
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Abstract

Several authors relate accumulation (or precipitation) at the glacier equilibrium-line altitude (ELA) to summer mean temperature using exponential or power-law functions. I analyze the accumulation-temperature relation at the ELA with a degree-day model using data from the 1992 paper by A. Ohmura and others. The dataset includes estimates at the ELA of winter balance and of `winter balance plus summer precipitation' which represent respectively low and high estimates of annual accumulation, which is seldom measured. The Ohmura dataset only lists summer mean temperature, but I recover monthly temperatures for the whole year for 66 of the glaciers by assuming sinusoidal temperature variation through the year and using annual temperature range from a gridded climatology. Monthly degree-day sums are then estimated from monthly mean temperature and summed to give annual totals so degree-day factors for melting snow at the ELA are obtained. The degree-day factors fall close to those reported in the literature for glacier snowmelt, with averages of 3.5±1.4 and 4.6±1.4 mmd-1 K-1 for low- and high-accumulation estimates on the 66 glaciers. The degree-day model gives a family of accumulation-temperature curves that depend upon the annual temperature range, representing the contrast between maritime and continental climates.

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Authors

  • Roger J. Braithwaite

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