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Forecasting temperate alpine glacier survival from accumulation zone observations

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Abstract:

For temperate alpine glaciers survival is dependent on the consistent presence of an accumulation zone. The lack of a consistent and persistent accumulation zone leads to substantial thinning of the glacier in the accumulation zone. Accumulation zone thinning is evident in satellite imagery or field observation based the emergence of new rock outcrops or the recession of the margin of the glacier in the accumulation zone along a substantial portion of its perimeter. In either case the accumulation zone is no longer functioning as an accumulation zone and survival is unlikely. In both the North Cascades and Wind River Range nine of the fifteen glaciers examined are forecast not to survive the current climate or future additional warming. The results vary considerably with adjacent glaciers having a different survival forecast. This emphasizes the danger of extrapolating survival from one glacier to the next. This trait also emphasizes the value of a simple forecasting tool that can be applied to all glaciers. The automated remote sensing based glacier classification schemes developed offer the potential for automating this process based on the changes in the glacier outline.

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