December 5, 2013

Building a 30-year Glacier Mass Balance Time Series

Posted by Mauri Pelto

The above video looks at the effort behind a long term field study, looking at images from 11 of the 30 years of our research, digital cameras became good then. Long term monitoring programs have until recently been unattractive for federal grantmakers, since they are not directly advancing the frontiers of science. However, many long duration time series from monitoring programs do advance science eventually as the response to changes in environmental or climate conditions are documented. In 1984, I responded to a request from the US National Academy of Sciences, “to monitor glaciers across an ice clad mountain range”, something that was not being done anywhere in Norther America. Thirty years later we are still pursuing this project. We have developed a 30 years time series of glacier mass balance on glaciers across the North Cascades of Washington. To ensure that the program could be sustained, we did not pursue any federal funding for the project. The data we, collect is submitted to the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) each year, the regional time series built in the North Cascade is just part of the contribution to the global glacier mass balance time series at WGMS. The cumulative North Cascades glacier mass balance record is in fact quite similar to the cumulative global mass balance time series. For the globe there have been 22 consecutive years of negative mass balance, that is the reality of the impact of global warming on mountain glaciers around the globe. The impact on the glaciers of Mount Baker was recently published Pelto and Brown (2012)