Articles | Volume 9, issue 6
Research article
18 Nov 2015
Research article |  | 18 Nov 2015

From Doktor Kurowski's Schneegrenze to our modern glacier equilibrium line altitude (ELA)

R. J. Braithwaite

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Cited articles

Abermann, J., Lambrecht, A., Fischer, A., and Kuhn, M.: Quantifying changes and trends in glacier area and volume in the Austrian Ötztal Alps (1969–1997–2006), The Cryosphere, 3, 205–215,, 2009.
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Bakke, J. and Nesje, A.: Equilibrium-Line Altitude (ELA), in: Encyclopedia of Snow, Ice and Glaciers, edited by: Singh, V., Singh, P., and Haritashya, U., Springer, the Netherlands, 268–277, 2011.
Short summary
Kurowski suggested in 1891 that ELA is equal to the mean altitude of the glacier when the glacier is in balance. I compare mean altitude with balanced-budget ELA for 103 modern glaciers. Kurowski’s mean altitude is significantly higher (at 95% level) than balanced-budget ELA for 19 outlet and 42 valley glaciers, but not significantly higher for 34 mountain glaciers. The error in Kurowski mean altitude as a predictor of balanced budget might be due to non-linearity in balance gradients.