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Mayer, Christoph; Jaenicke, Julia; Lambrecht, Astrid; Braun, Ludwig; Voelksen, Christof; Minet, Christian; Münzer, Ulrich (2017): Local surface mass-balance reconstruction from a tephra layer - a case study on the northern slope of Mýrdalsjökull, Iceland. In: Journal of Glaciology, Vol. 63, No. 237: pp. 79-87
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Abstract

Most Icelandic glaciers show high-accumulation rates during winter and strong surface melting during summer. Although it is difficult to establish and maintain mass-balance programs on these glaciers, mass-balance series do exist for several of the ice caps (Bjornsson and others, 2013). We make use of the frequent volcanic eruptions in Iceland, which cause widespread internal tephra layers in the ice caps, to reconstruct the surface mass balance (SMB) in the ablation zone. This method requires information about surface geometry and ice velocity, derived from remote-sensing information. In addition, the emergence angle of the tephra layer needs to be known. As a proof-of concept, we utilize a prominent tephra layer of the Myrdalsjokull Ice Cap to infer local SMB estimates in the ablation area back to 1988. Using tephra-layer outcrop locations across the glacier at different points in time it is possible to determine local mass changes (loss and redistribution) for a large part of the ablation zone, without the use of historic elevation models, which often are not available.