HyMet has taken the proven techniques developed for streamflow forecasting and
applied them to a glacier mass-balance model that also uses only low-altitude
Using a 38-year period at South Cascade Glacier as
a test, the model has proven reliable in a comparison of simulated mass balance
with measured mass balance in the field.
Mass-balance modeling is feasible
because the area-altitude distribution of the glacier, which plays a significant
role in the mass balance, has by erosional processes, integrated the climate
that has formed and nourished the glacier.
Significance of Modeling Glacier Mass
Glaciers are excellent climate recorders. The advance and retreat of
both alpine and continental glaciers for the past 100,000 years or more, have
left lasting traces of past climates on the landscape of the earth.
the connection between glacier behavior and the climate requires a comprehensive
understanding of how they are related. Several basic scientific disciplines are
applied for this purpose, including geology, mathematics, physics, chemistry,
meteorology and fluid mechanics.
Measuring the annual mass balance of a glacier
with the usual techniques of ablation stakes and snow pits, requiring on-site
field surveys, is arduous and costly – only a few dozen glaciers worldwide are
measured each year.
The working environment is often hazardous, cold and/or wet
and miserable (for human beings – weather that is healthy for
glaciers is usually unpleasant for glaciologists). Therefore, a
method to measure mass balance that does not require expensive
and hazardous field work was developed and has been successfully
applied for glaciers in Washington, Alaska, Nepal, and Norway.
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