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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-30
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-30
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 18 Feb 2019

Research article | 18 Feb 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

Multi-year Evaluation of Airborne Geodetic Surveys to Estimate Seasonal Mass Balance, Columbia and Rocky Mountains, Canada

Ben M. Pelto1, Brian Menounos1, and Shawn J. Marshall2 Ben M. Pelto et al.
  • 1Natural Resources and Environmental Studies Institute and Geography Program, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, V2N 4Z9, Canada
  • 2Department of Geography, University of Calgary, Calgary, T2N 1N4, Canada

Abstract. Seasonal measurements of glacier mass balance provide insight into the relation between climate forcing and glacier change. To evaluate the feasibility of using remotely-sensed methods to assess seasonal balance we completed tandem airborne laser scanning surveys (ALS) and field-based glaciological measurements over a four-year period for six alpine glaciers that lie in Columbia and Rocky Mountains, near the headwaters of the Columbia River, British Columbia, Canada. We calculated annual geodetic balance using co-registered late-summer digital elevation models (DEMs), and distributed estimates of density based on surface classification of ice, snow and firn surfaces. Winter balance was derived using co-registered late-summer and spring DEMs, and density measurements from regional snow course observations and our glaciological measurements. Geodetic summer balance was calculated as the difference between winter and annual balance. Winter mass balance from our glaciological observations averaged 1.95 ± 0.09 m w.e., 4 % greater than those derived from geodetic surveys. Average glaciological summer and annual balance were also 4 % greater than our geodetic estimates. We find that distributing snow, firn and ice density based on surface classification has a greater influence on geodetic annual mass change than the density values themselves. Our results demonstrate that accurate assessments of seasonal mass change can be produced using airborne ALS over a series of glaciers spanning several mountain ranges. Such agreement over multiple seasons, years, and glaciers demonstrates the ability of high-resolution geodetic methods to increase the number of glaciers where seasonal mass balance can be reliably measured.

Ben M. Pelto et al.
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Short summary
Changes in glacier mass are the direct response to meteorological conditions during the accumulation and melt seasons. We derived multi-year, seasonal mass balance from airborne laser scanning surveys and compared them to field measurements for six glaciers in the Columbia and Rocky mountains, Canada. Our method can accurately measure seasonal changes in glacier mass and can be easily adapted to derive seasonal mass change for entire mountain ranges, a needed dataset to improve hydrologic models
Changes in glacier mass are the direct response to meteorological conditions during the...
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