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Estimation of glacial melt contributions to the Bow River, Alberta, Canada, using a radiation-temperature melt model

  • Eleanor A. Bash (a1) and Shawn J. Marshall (a1)

Alberta’s Bow River has its headwaters in the glaciated eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies and is a major source of water in southern Alberta. Glacial retreat, declining snowpacks and increased water demand are all expected in the coming century, yet there are relatively few studies focusing on quantifying glacial meltwater in the Bow River. We develop a new radiation-temperature melt model for modelling distributed glacier mass balance and runoff in the Bow River basin. The model reflects physical processes through the incorporation of near-surface air temperature and absorbed radiation, while avoiding problems of collinearity through the use of a radiation-decorrelated temperature index. The model is calibrated at Haig Glacier in the southern portion of the basin and validated at Haig and Peyto Glaciers. Application of the model to the entire Bow River basin for 2000-09 shows glacier ice melt is equivalent to 3% of annual discharge in Calgary on average. Modelled ice melt in August is equal to 8-20% of the August Bow River discharge in Calgary. This emphasizes the importance of glacier runoff to late-summer streamflow in the region, particularly in warm, dry years.

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Annals of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0260-3055
  • EISSN: 1727-5644
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