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Muskett, R.R., 2007

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Bibliographic Reference

Muskett, R.R., 2007, Mass balances and dynamic changes of the Bering, Malaspina, and Icy Bay Glacier systems of Alaska, U.S.A., and Yukon, Canada: University of Alaska Fairbanks, Ph.D. dissertation, xviii, 212 p., illust., maps.


The Bering and the Malaspina Glacier systems of south-central Alaska, U.S.A., and southwest Yukon Territory, Canada, in the Saint Elias Mountains constitute the two largest temperate surge-type piedmont glaciers on Earth. This is the largest region of glaciers and icefields in continental North America. Determining and understanding the causes of wastage of these two glaciers is important to understanding the linkages of glacier mass balance to climate change, glacier dynamics, and the contributions of the glaciers of northwestern North America to rising sea level. Presented are the first detailed estimate of the net mass balances of the Bering and Malaspina Glacier systems, the effects of glacier dynamics on their accumulation areas, and the wastage of the tidewater glaciers of Icy Bay. The combined wastage of the Bering and Malaspina Glacier systems from 1972 to 2003, 254 +/- 16 km3 water equivalent over a glacier area of 7,734 km2, is equivalent to an area-average mass balance of -1.06 +/- 0.07 m/y over that time period. This represents a contribution to global sea-level rise of 0.70 +/- 0.05 mm, 0.023 +/- 0.002 mm/yr from 1972 to 2003. This is roughly 0.8% of the modern sea-level rise as estimated from tide-gauges and satellites, and roughly 9% of the contribution from non-polar glaciers and ice caps. Glacier wastage has been caused by climate warming (negative mass balance) superimposed on the effects of glacier dynamics. Near-concurrent surge of the three largest glaciers of the Malaspina Glacier piedmont were observed from 1999 to 2002. In addition, the tidewater Tyndall Glacier, whose retreat since 1910 was interrupted in 1964 by a major surge, also surged from 1999 to 2002. These four surges have occurred roughly 23 years after the 1976-77 shift of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation to its current warm-wet phase. Despite the increase of high-elevation snow accumulation observed on Mt. Logan, the accumulation areas of the Bering and Malaspina Glacier systems are being drawn down by the effects of glacier dynamics. Wastage has accelerated since 2000.

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