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WWRC 97-05aaa
Mass Balance Changes on Teton Glacier Using Historical and Contemporary Data


Glaciers of Grand Teton National Park appear to be in a state of continued negative mass balance. Recent work on glaciers in the Wind River Range of Wyoming indicates that significant portions of the August through October flow in the Wind River basin is derived directly from glacier melt (Charles Love, personal communication, 1994; Marston et al 1989). If glacial melt continues at the present rate, some of the major ice bodies responsible for this late season contribution may disappear entirely by the turn of the century. It is useful to know if the glaciers of Grand Teton National Park are under a similar ice-wastage regime. Loss of glaciers and perennial ice masses will have an effect on the hydrology, biogeochemistry and biology of the streams draining the regions containing ice. The results of this study provide an important database for hydrologists interested in regional conditions.

Reed (1963) completed detailed studies on Teton Glacier and published the first map of the glacier with a 1954 surface taken from aerial photographs and a 1963 surface derived from a plane table survey. Preliminary analysis of Reed's 1954 and 1963 map shows a loss of about 600,000 m2 of ice during that period. Detailed contemporary studies of the glacier began in 1994 when we used electronic surveying equipment to map ground control points on Teton Glacier for reference to Reed's previous glacier surveys and to map surface topography for a high-resolution (1040 points) ground survey. A contour map with a 2m contour interval was constructed from the 1994 ground survey. Aerial photography was acquired in August 1996 and a comprehensive high-resolution surface of the glacier will also be converted to a digital database and co-registered to previous maps using ARC/INFO software. A contour map with 0.5 m contour interval will be generated from our aerial photographs and improved ground truth. A quantitative description, using the digital data, will be made of the total volume and spatial distribution of ice mass changes in the glacier between periods of record. The 1954, 1963, 1994 and 1996 surfaces will be compared to quantify absolute changes in ice mass over the approximate 10, 30, and 40 year periods. An estimation of future health of the glacier will be made based on estimated ice mass present climate and trends in ice wastage.

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