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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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The Cryosphere, 5, 107-124, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
24 Feb 2011
Comparison of direct and geodetic mass balances on a multi-annual time scale
A. Fischer Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics, University of Innsbruck, Austria
Abstract. The geodetic mass balances of six Austrian glaciers over 19 periods between 1953 and 2006 are compared to the direct mass balances over the same periods. For two glaciers, Hintereisferner and Kesselwandferner, case studies showing possible reasons for discrepancies between the geodetic and the direct mass balance are presented. The mean annual geodetic mass balance for all periods is −0.5 m w.e. a−1, the mean annual direct mass balance −0.4 m w.e. a−1. The mean cumulative difference is −0.6 m w.e., the minimum −7.3 m w.e., and the maximum 5.6 m w.e. The accuracy of geodetic mass balance may depend on the accuracy of the DEMs, which ranges from 2 m w.e. for photogrammetric data to 0.02 m w.e. for airborne laser scanning (LiDAR) data. Basal melt, seasonal snow cover, and density changes of the surface layer also contribute up to 0.7 m w.e. to the difference between the two methods over the investigated period of 10 yr. On Hintereisferner, the fraction of area covered by snow or firn has been changing within 1953–2006. The accumulation area is not identical with the firn area, and both are not coincident with areas of volume gain. Longer periods between the acquisition of the DEMs do not necessarily result in a higher accuracy of the geodetic mass balance. Trends in the difference between the direct and the geodetic data vary from glacier to glacier and can differ systematically for specific glaciers under specific types of climate forcing. Ultimately, geodetic and direct mass balance data are complementary, and great care must be taken when attempting to combine them.

Citation: Fischer, A.: Comparison of direct and geodetic mass balances on a multi-annual time scale, The Cryosphere, 5, 107-124, doi:10.5194/tc-5-107-2011, 2011.
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