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The geography of glaciers and perennial snowfields in the American West

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Author(s): Andrew G. Fountain, Bryce Glenn, Hassan J. Basagic

Category: PUBLICATION
Document Type:
Publisher: Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research
Published Year: 2017
Volume: 49
Number: 3
Pages: 391 to 410
DOI Identifier: 10.1657/AAAR0017-003
ISBN Identifier:
Keywords:

Abstract:
A comprehensive mid-20th century inventory of glaciers and perennial snowfields (G&PS) was compiled for the American West, west of the 100° meridian. The inventory was derived from U.S. Geological Survey 1:24,000 topographic maps based on aerial photographs acquired during 35 years, 1955–1990, of which the first 20 years or more was a cool period with little glacier change. The mapped features were filtered for those greater than 0.01 km2. Results show that 5036 G&PS (672 km2, 14 km3) populate eight states, of which about 1276 (554 km2, 12 km3) are glaciers. Uncertainty is estimated at ±9% for area and ±20% for volume. Two populations of G&PS were identified based on air temperature and precipitation. The larger is found in a maritime climate of the Pacific Northwest, characterized by warm winter air temperatures and high winter precipitation (~2100 mm). The other population is continental in climate, characterized by cold winter air temperatures, relatively low winter precipitation (~880 mm), and located at higher elevations elsewhere. The G&PS in the Pacific Northwest, especially in the Olympic Mountains, are particularly vulnerable to warming winter air temperatures that will change the phase of winter precipitation from snow to rain, further accelerating glacier shrinkage in the future. Comparison with a recent inventory suggests that the total G&PS area in the American West may have decreased by as much as 39% since the mid-20th century.

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Suggested Citations:
In Text Citation:
Fountain and others (2017) or (Fountain et al., 2017)

References Citation:
Fountain, A.G., B. Glenn, and H.J. Basagic, 2017, The geography of glaciers and perennial snowfields in the American West: Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, Vol. 49, No. 3, pp. 391-410, doi: 10.1657/AAAR0017-003.