Glacier Surface Mass Balance Modeling in the Inner Tropics Using a Positive Degree-Day Approach (2016)

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We present a basic ablation model combining a positive degree-day approach to calculate melting and a simple equation based on wind speed to compute sublimation. The model was calibrated at point scale (4900 m a.s.l.) on Antizana Glacier 15 (0.28 km2; 0°28' S, 78°09' W) with data from March 2002 to August 2003 and validated with data from January to November 2005. Cross validation was performed by interchanging the calibration and validation periods. Optimization of the model based on the calculated surface energy balance allowed degree-day factors to be retrieved for snow and ice, and suggests that melting started when daily air temperature was still below 0 °C, because incoming shortwave radiation was intense around noon and resulted in positive temperatures for a few hours a day. The model was then distributed over the glacier and applied to the 2000–2008 period using meteorological inputs measured on the glacier foreland to assess to what extent this approach is suitable for quantifying glacier surface mass balance in Ecuador. Results showed that a model based on temperature, wind speed, and precipitation is able to reproduce a large part of surface mass-balance variability of Antizana Glacier 15 even though the melting factors for snow and ice may vary with time. The model performed well because temperatures were significantly correlated with albedo and net shortwave radiation. Because this relationship disappeared when strong winds result in mixed air in the surface boundary layer, this model should not be extrapolated to other tropical regions where sublimation increases during a pronounced dry season or where glaciers are located above the mean freezing level.
Year: 2016
Language: English
In: The Cryosphere Discuss., 2016 : 1-52 p.

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