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Exceptionally high 2018 equilibrium line altitude on Taku glacier, Alaska

Source(s):  Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI)

This paper focuses on the work by the Juneau Icefield Research Program (JIRP), which has been examining the glaciers of the Juneau Icefield since 1946. The height of the transient snowline at the end of the summer represents the annual equilibrium line altitude for the glacier, where ablation equals accumulation.

On Taku Glacier, the equilibrium line altitude has been observed annually from 1946 to 2018. Since 1998, multiple annual observations of the transient snowline in satellite imagery identify both the migration rate of the transient snowline and equilibrium line altitude.

The mean equilibrium line altitude has risen 85 ± 10 m from the 1946–1985 period to the 1986–2018 period. In 2018, the TSL was observed at 900 m on 5 July; 975 m on 21 July; 1075 m on 30 July; 1400 m on 16 September; and 1425 m on 1 October.

This is the first time since 1946 that the transient snowline has reached or exceeded 1250 m on Taku Glacier. The 500 m transient snowline rise from 5 July to 30 July, 8.0. md−1, is the fastest rate of rise observed. This combined with the observed balance gradient in this region yields an ablation rate of 40–43 mmd−1, nearly double the average ablation rate.

On 22 July a snow pit was completed at 1405 m with 0.93 m water equivalent, that subsequently lost all snow cover, prior to 16 September. This is one of eight snow pits completed in July providing field data to verify the ablation rate. The result of the record equilibrium line altitude and rapid ablation is the largest negative annual balance of Taku Glacier since records began in 1946

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  • Exceptionally high 2018 equilibrium line altitude on Taku glacier, Alaska
  • Publication date 2019
  • Author(s) Pelto, Mauri
  • Number of pages 11 p.

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