Modelling of Glacier Mass Balance

  • J. Oerlemans
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (volume 12)


The energy balance of the ice/snow surface is the dominating factor with regard to mass balance of glaciers in warm environments (currently all ice outside Antarctica). It is shown that an energy balance model is able to generate realistic mass-balance profiles from climate data for glaciers in widely differing climatic settings. Mass-balance profiles of 12 selected glaciers, for which good observations exist, are used for this purpose. The results of a sensitivity test, in which input temperature and precipitation are varied, are discussed. The sensitivity of the mass balance depends strongly on climatic conditions: maritime glaciers are far more sensitive to temperature change than dry subpolar ice caps (extreme values differ by a factor of 5 !)

Next an extrapolation to all glaciers and small ice caps is attempted. For a uniform 1 K warming, the global mean change in specific balance is −0.40 mwe (meters of water equivalent). Assuming an associated increase in precipitation proporional to saturation vapour pressure reduces this value to −0.31 mwe.


Mass Balance Climate Sensitivity Mass Balance Model Snow Albedo Glacier Tongue 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Oerlemans
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Marine and Atmospheric ResearchUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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