The influence of drainage boundaries on specific mass-balance results: a case study of Engabreen, Norway

Hallgeir Elvehøy, Miriam Jackson, Liss M. Andreassen
2009 Annals of Glaciology  
Mass-balance measurements were initiated on Engabreen, an outlet glacier from the Svartisen ice cap, Norway, in 1970. The glacier boundary was defined based on where meltwater drained, as the interest in Engabreen was mainly hydrological. However, the apparent discrepancy between the calculated cumulative glacier mass balance since 1970 and changes in glacier geometry prompted a re-examination of the glacier boundary. The glaciological drainage boundary is defined by studying whether ice flow
more » ... ysically contributes to Engabreen tongue and corresponds to a glacier with an area of 27.2 km2, significantly smaller than that defined by the hydrological drainage boundary at 39.6 km2. This glaciological drainage boundary is here named the ice-flow perimeter. The area difference between this and the hydrological drainage boundary is largest for the altitudinal range 1300–1400ma.s.l. Generally, the 'glaciological' glacier is lower in mean altitude than the 'hydrological' glacier, and this affects the calculated specific mass balance. Using the glaciological boundary leads to reductions in mean annual winter and summer balance (when spatial differences are ignored) of 0.12 mw.e. (from 2.92 to 2.80mw.e.) and 0.15 mw.e. (from –2.32 to –2.47mw.e.), respectively. The reduction in mean net balance for the period 1970–2006 is 0.27mw.e. (from +0.59 to +0.32mw.e.) which is about 50% of the calculated mass surplus in this period. This illustrates that the choice of glacier outline can significantly influence the long-term cumulative mass balance and that results from outlet glaciers must be interpreted with care when used for regional estimates of glacier change.
doi:10.3189/172756409787769708 fatcat:i4ixgq2cbzec3hgge2wmulyhqy