October 5, 2014
From 1984-2014 we have monitored the mass balance of the Rainbow Glacier on Mount Baker, North Cascade Range, Washington. This entails detailed monitoring of snowpack depth in July and August, and subsequent ablation to the end of the melt season. On July 13th the glacier was completely snowcovered. By August 10th the snowline had risen to 1575 m, with 1.4 m of ablation since July 13th. We measured the snowdepth at 85 locations on the glacier, with only 6 measurements exceeding 3.5 m on Aug. 10th.By September 27th the snowline had risen to 1975 m with a few pockets of snow retained where the snowdepth had exceeded 3.2 m on Aug. 10th. Snowdepth at the Sept. 27th snowline had been 3.0 to 3.2 m on Aug. 10th. This indicated ablation of approximately 3 m of snowpack, 1.8 m of water equivalent from Aug. 10th to Sept. 27th. Ablation from July 13th to Sept. 27th was 5.3 m of snowpack and 3.2 m w.e. This was 5-10% more ablation than any other year since 1984. A comparison of images from the ground on Aug. 10th indicates the snowpack on the glacier from 1550-1950 m, the blue arrows indicate locations where a patch of 2014 snow remained on Sept. 27th. The Sept. 27th image was taken by Tom Hammond from Rainbow Ridge the only location where the whole glacier can be viewed. The firn is simply old snow that survived a summer and could be from 2012 or 2013.
Winter snowpack was normal on Mount Baker, the record ablation then led to a large negative mass balance for the glacier of -1.8 m, but not a record loss. The ablation did lead to many significant surface streams on the glacier shown below, which drain into the glacier at moulins.
The terminus of glacier retreated rapidly from 1984 to 1998, but has slowed as it currently is in an avalanche runout zone. We visited the terminus in 1984 and all retreat is measured from that point when the glacier was in contact with an advance moraine from the 1955-1980 period of advance. A comparison of 1993 and 2006 Google Earth images indicates the retreat, red outline 2006 margin and black outline 1993. The 2014 image taken by Tom Hammond indicates that the terminus did get exposed in 2014 which will lead to additional retreat when we measure the terminus position next summer. Total retreat from 1984 to 2014 is 490 m.