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Brook, Martin S.; Hagg, Wilfried and Winkler, Stefan (13. December 2012): Debris cover and surface melt at a temperate maritime alpine glacier: Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand. In: New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics, Vol. 56, No. 1: pp. 27-38 [PDF, 1MB]

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Melt rates on glaciers are strongly influenced by the presence of supraglacial debris, which can either enhance or reduce ablation relative to bare ice. Most recently, Franz Josef Glacier has entered into a phase of strong retreat and downwasting, with the increasing emergence of debris on the surface in the ablation zone. Previously at Franz Josef Glacier, melt has only been measured on bare ice. During February 2012, a network of 11 ablation stakes was drilled into locations of varying supraglacial debris thickness on the lower glacier. Mean ablation rates over 9 days varied over the range 1.2–10.1 cm d−1, and were closely related to debris thickness. Concomitant observations of air temperature allowed the application of a degree-day approach to the calculation of melt rates, with air temperature providing a strong indicator of melt. Degree-day factors (d f) varied over the range 1.1–8.1 mm d−1 °C−1 (mean of 4.4 mm d−1 °C−1), comparable with rates reported in other studies. Mapping of the current debris cover revealed 0.7 km2 of the 4.9 km2 ablation zone surface was debris-covered, with thicknesses ranging 1–50 cm. Based on measured debris thicknesses and d f, ablation on debris-covered areas of the glacier is reduced by a total of 41% which equates to a 6% reduction in melt overall across the entire ablation zone. This study highlights the usefulness of a short-term survey to gather representative ablation data, consistent with numerous overseas ablation studies on debris-covered glaciers.

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