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Analysis of a GRACE global mascon solution for Gulf of Alaska glaciers

October 1, 2013

We present a high-resolution Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mascon solution for Gulf of Alaska (GOA) glaciers and compare this with in situ glaciological, climate and other remote-sensing observations. Our GRACE solution yields a GOA glacier mass balance of –65 ± 11 Gt a–1 for the period December 2003 to December 2010, with summer balances driving the interannual variability. Between October/November 2003 and October 2009 we obtain a mass balance of –61 ± 11 Gt a–1 from GRACE, which compares well with –65 ± 12 Gt a–1 from ICESat based on hypsometric extrapolation of glacier elevation changes. We find that mean summer (June–August) air temperatures derived from both ground and lower-troposphere temperature records were good predictors of GRACE-derived summer mass balances, capturing 59% and 72% of the summer balance variability respectively. Large mass losses during 2009 were likely due to low early melt season surface albedos, measured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and likely associated with the 31 March 2009 eruption of Mount Redoubt, southwestern Alaska. GRACE data compared well with in situ measurements at Wolverine Glacier (maritime Alaska), but poorly with those at Gulkana Glacier (interior Alaska). We conclude that, although GOA mass estimates from GRACE are robust over the entire domain, further constraints on subregional and seasonal estimates are necessary to improve fidelity to ground observations.

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