Articles | Volume 7, issue 4
The Cryosphere, 7, 1227–1245, 2013
The Cryosphere, 7, 1227–1245, 2013

Research article 06 Aug 2013

Research article | 06 Aug 2013

Reanalysing glacier mass balance measurement series

M. Zemp1, E. Thibert2, M. Huss3, D. Stumm4, C. Rolstad Denby5, C. Nuth6, S. U. Nussbaumer1, G. Moholdt7, A. Mercer8, C. Mayer9, P. C. Joerg1, P. Jansson8, B. Hynek10, A. Fischer11, H. Escher-Vetter9, H. Elvehøy12, and L. M. Andreassen12 M. Zemp et al.
  • 1Department of Geography, University of Zurich (UZH), Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2IRSTEA, UR ETGR Erosion Torrentielle, Neige et Avalanches, Saint-Martin-d'Hères, France
  • 3Department of Geosciences, University of Fribourg (UFR), Fribourg, Switzerland
  • 4International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal
  • 5Department of Mathematical Sciences and Technology, The Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB), Ås, Norway
  • 6Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo (UiO), Oslo, Norway
  • 7Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, USA
  • 8Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 9Commission for Geodesy and Glaciology, Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Munich, Germany
  • 10Zentralanstalt für Meteorologie und Geodynamik (ZAMG), Vienna, Austria
  • 11Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Innsbruck, Austria
  • 12Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE), Oslo, Norway

Abstract. Glacier-wide mass balance has been measured for more than sixty years and is widely used as an indicator of climate change and to assess the glacier contribution to runoff and sea level rise. Until recently, comprehensive uncertainty assessments have rarely been carried out and mass balance data have often been applied using rough error estimation or without consideration of errors. In this study, we propose a framework for reanalysing glacier mass balance series that includes conceptual and statistical toolsets for assessment of random and systematic errors, as well as for validation and calibration (if necessary) of the glaciological with the geodetic balance results. We demonstrate the usefulness and limitations of the proposed scheme, drawing on an analysis that comprises over 50 recording periods for a dozen glaciers, and we make recommendations to investigators and users of glacier mass balance data. Reanalysing glacier mass balance series needs to become a standard procedure for every monitoring programme to improve data quality, including reliable uncertainty estimates.