Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

The response of glaciers to intrinsic climate variability: observations and models of late-Holocene variations in the Pacific Northwest

  • Gerard H. Roe (a1) and Michael A. O’Neal (a2)
Abstract

Discriminating between glacier variations due to natural climate variability and those due to true climate change is crucial for the interpretation and attribution of past glacier changes, and for the expectations of future changes. We explore this issue for the well-documented glaciers of Mount Baker in the Cascades Mountains of Washington State, USA, using glacier histories, glacier modeling, weather data and numerical weather model output. We find that natural variability alone is capable of producing kilometer-scale excursions in glacier length on multi-decadal and centennial timescales. Such changes are similar in magnitude to those attributed to a global Little Ice Age. The null hypothesis, that no climate change is required to explain the glacier fluctuations in this setting, cannot be rejected. These results for Mount Baker glaciers are also consistent with an earlier study analyzing individual glaciers in Scandinavia and the Alps. The principle that long-timescale fluctuations of glacier length can be driven by short-timescale fluctuations in climate reflects a robust and fundamental property of stochastically forced physical systems with memory. It is very likely that this principle also applies to other Alpine glaciers and that it therefore complicates interpretations of the relationship between glacier and climate history. However, the amplitude and timescale of the length fluctuations depends on the details of the particular glacier geometry and climatic setting, and this remains largely unevaluated for most glaciers.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      The response of glaciers to intrinsic climate variability: observations and models of late-Holocene variations in the Pacific Northwest
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      The response of glaciers to intrinsic climate variability: observations and models of late-Holocene variations in the Pacific Northwest
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      The response of glaciers to intrinsic climate variability: observations and models of late-Holocene variations in the Pacific Northwest
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
References
Hide All
Anders, A.M., Roe, G.H., Durran, D.R. and Minder, J.R.. 2007. Small-scale spatial gradients in climatological precipitation on the Olympic Peninsula. J. Hydromet., 8(5), 10681081.
Anderson, R.S. and 6 others. 2004. Strong feedbacks between hydrology and sliding of a small alpine glacier. J. Geophys. Res., 109(F3), F03005. (10.1029/2004JF000120.)
Barsugli, J.J. and Battisti, D.S.. 1998. The basic effects of atmosphere–ocean thermal coupling on midlatitude variability. J. Atmos. Sci., 55(4), 477493.
Bitz, C.C. and Battisti, D.S.. 1999. Interannual to decadal variability in climate and the glacier mass balance in Washington, western Canada, and Alaska. J. Climate, 12(11), 31813196.
Braithwaite, R.J. and Olesen, O.B.. 1989. Calculation of glacier ablation from air temperature, West Greenland. In Oerlemans, J., ed. Glacier fluctuations and climatic change. Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 219233.
Bretherton, C.S. and Battisti, D.S.. 2000. An interpretation of the results from atmospheric general circulation models forced by the time history of the observed sea surface temperature distribution. Geophys. Res. Lett., 27(6), 767770.
Burke, R. 1972. Neoglaciation of Boulder Valley, Mt Baker, Washington. (MS thesis, Western Washington University.)
Colle, B.A., Mass, C.F. and Westrick, K.J.. 2000. MM5 precipitation verification over the Pacific Northwest during the 1997–99 cool seasons. Weather Forecast., 15(6), 730744.
Denton, G.H. and Porter, S.C.. 1970. Neoglaciation. Sci. Am., 222(6), 100110.
Deser, C., Alexander, M.A. and Timlin, M.S.. 2003. Understanding the persistence of sea surface temperature anomalies in midlatitudes. J. Climate, 16(1), 5772.
Frankignoul, C. and Hasselmann, K.. 1977. Stochastic climate models. Part 2. Application to sea-surface temperature anomalies and thermocline variability. Tellus, 29(4), 289305.
Frankignoul, C., Müller, P. and Zorita, E.. 1997. A simple model of the decadal response of the ocean to stochastic wind forcing. J. Phys. Oceanogr., 27(8), 1533–46.
Fuller, S.R. 1980. Neoglaciation of Avalanche Gorge and the Middle Fork Nooksack River valley, Mt. Baker, Washington. (MS thesis, University of Western Washington.)
Garvert, M.F., Smull, B. and Mass, C.. 2007. Multiscale mountain waves influencing a major orographic precipitation event. J. Atmos. Sci., 64(3), 711737.
Gibbons, A.B., Megeath, J.D. and Pierce, K.L.. 1984. Probability of moraine survival in a succession of glacial advances. Geology, 12(6), 327330.
Grell, G.A., Dudhia, J. and Stauffer, D.R.. 1995. A description of the fifth-generation Penn State/NCAR mesoscale model (MM5). Boulder, CO, National Center for Atmospheric Research. (NCAR Tech. Note TN-398+STR.)
Harper, J.T. 1992. The dynamic response of glacier termini to climatic variation during the period 1940–1990 on Mount Baker, Washington, USA. (MS thesis, Western Washington University.)
Harrison, W.D., Elsberg, D.H., Echelmeyer, K.A. and Krimmel, R.M.. 2001. On the characterization of glacier response by a single time-scale. J. Glaciol., 47(159), 659664.
Harrison, W.D., Raymond, C.F., Echelmeyer, K.A. and Krimmel, R.M.. 2003. A macroscopic approach to glacier dynamics. J. Glaciol., 49(164), 1321.
Hasselmann, K. 1976. Stochastic climate models. Part 1. Theory. Tellus, 28, 473483.
Hodge, S.M., Trabant, D.C., Krimmel, R.M., Heinrichs, T.A., March, R.S. and Josberger, E.G.. 1998. Climate variations and changes in mass of three glaciers in western North America. J. Climate, 11(9), 21612179.
Huybers, K. and Roe, G.H.. In press. Spatial patterns of glaciers in response to spatial patterns in regional climate. J. Climate
Huybrechts, P., de Nooze, P. and Decleir, H.. 1989. Numerical modelling of Glacier d’Argentière and its historic front variations. In Oerlemans, J., ed. Glacier fluctuations and climatic change. Dordrecht, etc., Kluwer Academic Publishers, 373389.
Jenkins, G.M. and Watts, D.G.. 1968. Spectral analysis and its applications. San Francisco, CA, Holden-Day.
Jóhannesson, T., Raymond, C. and Waddington, E.. 1989. Time-scale for adjustment of glaciers to changes in mass balance. J. Glaciol., 35(121), 355369.
Klok, E.J. 2003. The response of glaciers to climate change. (PhD thesis, University of Utrecht.)
Kovanen, D.J. 2003. Decadal variability in climate and glacier fluctuations on Mt Baker, Washington, USA. Geogr. Ann., 85A(1), 4355.
Lillquist, K. and Walker, K.. 2006. Historical glacier and climate fluctuations at Mount Hood, Oregon. Arct. Antarct. Alp. Res., 38(3), 399412.
Long, W.A. 1955. What’s happening to our glaciers? Sci. Mon., 81(2), 5764.
Mantua, N.J., Hare, S.R., Zhang, Y., Wallace, J.M. and Francis, R.C.. 1997. A Pacific interdecadal climate oscillation with impacts on salmon production. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc., 78(6),10691079.
Meier, M.F. and Post, A.S.. 1962. Recent variations in mass net budgets of glaciers in western North America. IASH Publ. 58 (Symposium at Obergurgl 1962 – Variations of the Regime of Existing Glaciers), 6377.
Meier, M.F., Tangborn, W.V., Mayo, L.R. and Post, A.. 1971. Combined ice and water balances of Gulkana and Wolverine Glaciers, Alaska, and South Cascade Glacier, Washington, 1965 and 1966 hydrologic years. USGS Prof. Pap. 715-A.
Minder, J.R., Durran, D.R., Roe, G.H. and Anders, A.M.. 2008. The climatology of small-scale orographic precipitation over the Olympic Mountains: patterns and processes. Q. J. R. Meteorol. Soc., 134(633), 817839.
Moore, R.D. and Demuth, M.N.. 2001. Mass balance and stream-flow variability at Place Glacier, Canada in relation to recent climate fluctuations. Hydrol. Process., 15(18), 34723486.
Mote, P.W. 2003. Trends in snow water equivalent in the Pacific Northwest and their climatic causes. Geophys. Res. Lett., 30(12), 1601. (10.1029/2003GL017258.)
Mote, P.W., Hamlet, A.F., Clark, M.P. and Lettenmaier, D.P.. 2005. Declining mountain snowpack in western North America. Bull. Am. Geogr. Soc., 86(1), 3949.
Nesje, A. and Dahl, S.O.. 2003. The ‘Little Ice Age’ – only temperature? Holocene, 13(1), 139145.
Newman, M., Compo, G.P. and Alexander, M.A.. 2003. ENSOforced variability of the Pacific decadal oscillation. J. Climate, 16(23), 38533857.
Nye, J.F. 1952. The mechanics of glacier flow. J. Glaciol., 2(12), 8293.
O’Brien, S.R., Mayewski, P.A., Meeker, L.D., Meese, D.A., Twickler, M.S. and Whitlow, S.I.. 1995. Complexity of Holocene climate as reconstructed from a Greenland ice core. Science, 270(5244), 19621964.
O’Neal, M.A. 2005. Late Little Ice Age glacier fluctuations in the Cascade Range of Washington and northern Oregon. (PhD thesis, University of Washington.)
Oerlemans, J. 2001. Glaciers and climate change. Lisse, etc., A.A. Balkema.
Oerlemans, J. 2005. Extracting a climate signal from 169 glacier records. Science, 308(5722), 675677.
Ohmura, A., Wild, M. and Bengtsson, L.. 1996. A possible change in mass balance of Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets in the coming century. J. Climate, 9(9), 21242135.
Paterson, W.S.B. 1994. The physics of glaciers. Third edition. Oxford, etc., Elsevier.
Pederson, G.T., Fagre, D.B., Gray, S.T. and Graumlich, L.J.. 2004. Decadal-scale climate drivers for glacial dynamics in Glacier National Park, Montana, USA. Geophys. Res. Lett., 31(12), L12203. (10.1029/2004GL019770.)
Pelto, M.S. 2000. Summer snowpack variations with altitude on Mount Baker, Washington 1990–1999: a comparison with record 1998/1999 snowfall. In Hardy, J.P. and Pomeroy, J., eds. Proceedings of the 57th Annual Eastern Snow Conference, 17–19 May 2000, Syracuse, New York. Hanover, NH, US Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, 7984.
Pelto, M.S. 2006. The current disequilibrium of North Cascade glaciers. Hydrol. Process., 20(4), 769779.
Pelto, M.S. and Hedlund, C.. 2001. Terminus behavior and response time of North Cascade glaciers, Washington, U.S.A. J. Glaciol., 47(158), 497506.
Pelto, M.S. and Riedel, J.. 2001. Spatial and temporal variations in annual balance of North Cascade glaciers, Washington, 1984– 2000. Hydrol. Process., 15(18), 34613472.
Pollard, D. 1980. A simple parameterization for ice sheet ablation rate. Tellus, 32(4), 384388.
Porter, S.C. 1977. Present and past glaciation threshold in the Cascade Range, Washington, U.S.A.: topographic and climatic controls and paleoclimatic implications. J. Glaciol., 18(78), 101116.
Raper, S.C.B., Brown, O. and Braithwaite, R.J.. 2000. A geometric glacier model for sea-level change calculations. J. Glaciol., 46(154), 357368.
Reichert, B. K., Bengtsson, L. and Oerlemans, J.. 2002. Recent glacier retreat exceeds internal variability. J. Climate, 15(21), 30693081.
Robock, A. and Free, M.P.. 1996. The volcanic record in ice cores for the past 2000 years. In Jones, P.D., Bradley, R.S. and Jouzel, J., eds. Climatic variations and forcing mechanisms of the last 2000 years. Berlin, Springer-Verlag. (NATO ASI Series 1: Global Environmental Change 41.)
Roe, G. 2009. Feedbacks, timescales, and seeing red. Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci., 37, 93–15.
Roe, G.H. and Lindzen, R.S.. 2001. A one-dimensional model for the interaction between continental-scale ice-sheets and atmospheric stationary waves. Climate Dyn., 17(5–6), 479487.
Rupper, S. and Roe, G.. 2008. Glacier changes and regional climate: a mass and energy balance approach. J. Climate, 21(20), 53845401.
Rupper, S., Steig, E.J. and Roe, G.. 2004. The relationship between snow accumulation at Mt. Logan, Yukon, Canada, and climate variability in the North Pacific. J. Climate, 17(24), 47244739.
Rupper, S.B., Roe, G.H. and Gillespie, A.. In press. Spatial patterns of glacier advance and retreat in Central Asia in the Holocene. Quat. Res.
Schneider, T. and Neumaier, A.. 2001. Algorithm 808: ARfit – a Matlab package for the estimation of parameters and eigen-modes of multivariate autoregressive models. ACM Trans. Math. Softw., 27(1), 5865.
Solomon, S. and 7 others, eds. 2007. Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, etc., Cambridge University Press.
Soon, W. and Baliunas, S.. 2003. Proxy climatic and environmental changes of the past 1,000 years. Climate Res., 23(2), 89110.
Stouffer, R.J., Hegerl, G. and Tett, S.. 2000. A comparison of surface air temperature variability in three 1000-yr coupled ocean– atmosphere model integrations. J. Climate, 13(3), 513537.
Thomas, P.A. 1997. Late Quaternary glaciation and volcanism on the south flank of Mt. Baker, Washington. (MS thesis, Western Washington University.)
Von Storch, H. and Zwiers, F.W.. 1999. Statistical analysis in climate research. Cambridge, etc., Cambridge University Press.
Wunsch, C. 1999. The interpretation of short climate records, with comments on the North Atlantic and Southern Oscillations. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc., 80(2), 245255.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0022-1430
  • EISSN: 1727-5652
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-glaciology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed