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Surface mass balance of glaciers in the French Alps: distributed modeling and sensitivity to climate change

  • M. Gerbaux (a1), C. Genthon (a1), P. Etchevers (a2), C. Vincent (a1) and J.P. Dedieu (a1)...
Abstract
Abstract

A new physically based distributed surface mass-balance model is presented for Alpine glaciers. Based on the Crocus prognostic snow model, it resolves both the temporal (1 hour time-step) and spatial (200 m grid-step) variability of the energy and mass balance of glaciers. Mass-balance reconstructions for the period 1981–2004 are produced using meteorological reconstruction from the SAFRAN meteorological model for Glacier de Saint-Sorlin and Glacier d’Argentière, French Alps. Both glaciers lost mass at an accelerated rate in the last 23 years. The spatial distribution of precipitation within the model grid is adjusted using field mass-balance measurements. This is the only correction made to the SAFRAN meteorological input to the glacier model, which also includes surface atmospheric temperature, moisture, wind and all components of downward radiation. Independent data from satellite imagery and geodetic measurements are used for model validation. With this model, glacier sensitivity to climate change can be separately evaluated with respect to a full range of meteorological parameters, whereas simpler models, such as degree-day models, only account for temperature and precipitation. We provide results for both mass balance and equilibrium-line altitude (ELA) using a generic Alpine glacier. The sensitivity of the ELA to air temperature alone is found to be 125 m °C–1, or 160 m °C¯1 if concurrent (Stefan–Boltzmann) longwave radiation change is taken into account.

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References
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Journal of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0022-1430
  • EISSN: 1727-5652
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-glaciology
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