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Glaciers FAQs - 29 Found

What are "Benchmark Glaciers" and what are the scientific objectives of the USGS "Benchmark Glaciers" Program?

The term “Benchmark Glaciers” refers to three North American glaciers that have been selected to be the subjects of a long-term glacier monitoring program which investigates climate, glacier geometry, glacier mass balance, glacier motion, and stream runoff.

Because glaciers are important features in the hydrologic cycle and affect the volume, variability, and water quality of runoff, this USGS program focuses its attention on understanding this important relationship. Assessing and predicting the effect of glaciers on water resources require a monitoring program to provide basic data for this understanding. The USGS monitoring program employs a nested approach whereby an intensively studied glacier is surrounded by less intensively studied glaciers and those monitored solely by remote sensing. The intensively studied glacier provides a detailed understanding of the physical processes and their temporal changes that control the mass exchange of the glaciers in that region. The less intensively studied glaciers are used to assess the variability of such processes within the region.

The data collected are used to understand glacier-related hydrologic processes and improve the quantitative prediction of water resources, glacier-related hazards, and the consequences of climate change. The approach has been to establish long-term mass balance monitoring programs at three widely spaced glacier basins in the United States that clearly sample different climate-glacier-runoff regimes. From north to south, the three basins are Gulkana and Wolverine Glaciers in Alaska and South Cascade Glacier in Washington.

Source: Fountain, A.G., Krimmel, R.M., and Trabant, D.C., 1997, A strategy for monitoring glaciers: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1132, 19 p.

Learn more: Benchmark Glaciers

Tags: Global Change, Glaciers, Climate, Snow, Ice, Polar