Distributed global debris thickness estimates reveal debris significantly impacts glacier mass balance

David R Rounce, Regine Hock, Robert McNabb, Romain Millan, Christian Sommer, Matthias Braun, Philipp Malz, Fabien Maussion, Jeremie Mouginot, Thorsten Seehaus, David Shean

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Abstract

Supraglacial debris affects glacier mass balance as a thin layer enhances surface melting, while a thick layer reduces it. While many glaciers are debris‐covered, global glacier models do not account for debris because its thickness is unknown. We provide the first globally distributed debris thickness estimates using a novel approach combining sub‐debris melt and surface temperature inversion methods. Results are evaluated against observations from 22 glaciers. We find the median global debris thickness is ∼0.15 ± 0.06 m. In all regions, the net effect of accounting for debris is a reduction in sub‐debris melt, on average, by 37%, which can impact regional mass balance by up to 0.40 m water equivalent (w.e.) yr<sup>‐1</sup>. We also find recent observations of similar thinning rates over debris‐covered and clean ice glacier tongues is primarily due to differences in ice dynamics. Our results demonstrate the importance of accounting for debris in glacier modeling efforts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Volume48
Issue number8
Early online date22 Mar 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2021

Keywords

  • ATMOSPHERIC COMPOSITION AND STRUCTURE
  • ATMOSPHERIC PROCESSES
  • Abrupt/rapid climate change
  • Air/sea constituent fluxes
  • Air/sea interactions
  • Atmospheric
  • Atmospheric effects
  • Avalanches
  • BIOGEOSCIENCES
  • Benefit‐cost analysis
  • COMPUTATIONAL GEOPHYSICS
  • CRYOSPHERE
  • Climate and interannual variability
  • Climate change and variability
  • Climate dynamics
  • Climate impact
  • Climate impacts
  • Climate variability
  • Climatology
  • Decadal ocean variability
  • Disaster risk analysis and assessment
  • Earth system modeling
  • Earthquake ground motions and engineering seismology
  • Effusive volcanism
  • Energy balance
  • Explosive volcanism
  • GEODESY AND GRAVITY
  • GLOBAL CHANGE
  • General circulation
  • Geological
  • Glaciers
  • Global change from geodesy
  • Gravity and isostasy
  • HYDROLOGY
  • Hydrological cycles and budgets
  • INFORMATICS
  • Impacts of global change
  • Land/atmosphere interactions
  • MARINE GEOLOGY AND GEOPHYSICS
  • Mass balance
  • Modeling
  • Mud volcanism
  • NATURAL HAZARDS
  • Numerical modeling
  • Numerical solutions
  • OCEANOGRAPHY: GENERAL
  • OCEANOGRAPHY: PHYSICAL
  • Ocean influence of Earth rotation
  • Ocean monitoring with geodetic techniques
  • Ocean/Earth/atmosphere/hydrosphere/cryosphere interactions
  • Ocean/atmosphere interactions
  • Oceanic
  • Oceans
  • PALEOCEANOGRAPHY
  • POLICY SCIENCES
  • Physical modeling
  • Properties
  • RADIO SCIENCE
  • Radio oceanography
  • Regional climate change
  • Regional modeling
  • Remote sensing
  • Research Letter
  • Risk
  • SEISMOLOGY
  • Sea level change
  • Sea level: variations and mean
  • Solid Earth
  • Surface waves and tides
  • Theoretical modeling
  • Tsunamis and storm surges
  • VOLCANOLOGY
  • Volcanic effects
  • Volcanic hazards and risks
  • Volcano monitoring
  • Volcano seismology
  • Volcano/climate interactions
  • Water cycles
  • debris thickness
  • glacier melt
  • glaciers
  • mass balance

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