Time series of net and seasonal mass balances for three glaciers in western North America, one in the Pacific Northwest and two in Alaska, show various relationships to Pacific hemisphere climate indexes. During the winter season the two coastal, maritime-regime glaciers, over 2000 km apart, are affected almost identically, albeit inversely, by atmospheric and oceanic conditions in both the tropical and North Pacific. The two Alaska glaciers, only 350 km apart, have almost no coherence. Lag correlations show that in winter the maritime glaciers are influenced by concurrent conditions in the North Pacific, but by conditions in the tropical Pacific in August-September of the prior northern summer. The winter balance variations contain interannual El Nino-Southern Oscillation variability superimposed on North Pacific interdecadal variability; the interdecadal 1976-77 climate regime shift is clearly evident. The summer balances and the continental-regime glacier have a general lack of correlations, with no clear, strong, consistent patterns, probably a result of being influenced more by local processes or by circulation patterns outside the Pacific Ocean basin. The results show the Pacific Northwest is strongly influenced by conditions in the tropical Pacific, but that this teleconnection has broken down in recent years, starting in 1989. During the seven years since then (1989-95), all three glaciers have shown, for the first time, coherent signals, which were net mass loss at the highest rate in the entire record. The authors' results agree with those of other recent studies that suggest these recent years are unusual and may be a signature of climate warming.
Additional publication details
Climate variations and changes in mass of three glaciers in western North America