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Data Series 676

Surface Mass Balance of the Columbia Glacier, Alaska, 1978 and 2010 Balance Years

By Shad O’Neel

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (640 KB)Abstract

Although Columbia Glacier is one of the largest sources of glacier mass loss in Alaska, surface mass balance measurements are sparse, with only a single data set available from 1978. The dearth of surface mass-balance data prohibits partitioning of the total mass losses between dynamics and surface forcing; however, the accurate inclusion of calving glaciers into predictive models requires both dynamic and climatic forcing of total mass balance. During 2010, the U.S. Geological Survey collected surface balance data at several locations distributed over the surface of Columbia Glacier to estimate the glacier-wide annual balance for balance year 2010 using the 2007 area-altitude distribution. This report also summarizes data collected in 1978, calculates the 1978 annual surface balance, and uses these observations to constrain the 2010 values, particularly the shape of the balance profile. Both years exhibit balances indicative of near-equilibrium surface mass-balance conditions, and demonstrate the importance of dynamic processes during the rapid retreat.

First posted March 19, 2012

For additional information contact:
Director, Alaska Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
4210 University Drive
Anchorage, Alaska 99508

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

O’Neel, Shad, 2012, Surface mass balance of Columbia Glacier, Alaska, 1978 and 2010 balance years: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 676, 8 p.





Field Methods

Data Reduction and Analysis



References Cited

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