Winter snow accumulation and summer snow and ice ablation were measured at South Cascade Glacier, Washington, to estimate glacier mass balance quantities for balance years 2006 and 2007. Mass balances were computed with assistance from a new model that was based on the works of other glacier researchers. The model, which was developed for mass balance practitioners, coupled selected meteorological and glaciological data to systematically estimate daily mass balance at selected glacier sites.
The North Cascade Range in the vicinity of South Cascade Glacier accumulated approximately average to above average winter snow packs during 2006 and 2007. Correspondingly, the balance years 2006 and 2007 maximum winter snow mass balances of South Cascade Glacier, 2.61 and 3.41 meters water equivalent, respectively, were approximately equal to or more positive (larger) than the average of such balances since 1959. The 2006 glacier summer balance, -4.20 meters water equivalent, was among the four most negative since 1959. The 2007 glacier summer balance, -3.63 meters water equivalent, was among the 14 most negative since 1959. The glacier continued to lose mass during 2006 and 2007, as it commonly has since 1953, but the loss was much smaller during 2007 than during 2006. The 2006 glacier net balance, -1.59 meters water equivalent, was 1.02 meters water equivalent more negative (smaller) than the average during 1953-2005. The 2007 glacier net balance, -0.22 meters water equivalent, was 0.37 meters water equivalent less negative (larger) than the average during 1953-2006. The 2006 accumulation area ratio was less than 0.10, owing to isolated patches of accumulated snow that endured the 2006 summer season. The 2006 equilibrium line altitude was higher than the glacier. The 2007 accumulation area ratio and equilibrium line altitude were 0.60 and 1,880 meters, respectively.
Accompanying the glacier mass losses were retreat of the terminus and reduction of total glacier area. The terminus retreated at a rate of about 13 meters per year during balance year 2006 and at a rate of about 8 meters per year during balance year 2007. Glacier area near the end of balance years 2006 and 2007 was 1.74 and 1.73 square kilometers, respectively.
Runoff from the basin containing the glacier and from an adjacent nonglacierized basin was gaged during all or parts of water years 2006 and 2007. Air temperature, wind speed, precipitation, and incoming solar radiation were measured at selected locations on and near the glacier. Air-temperature over the glacier at a height of 2 meters generally was less than at the same altitude in the air mass away from the glacier. Cooling of the air by the glacier increased systematically with increasing ambient air temperature. Empirically based equations were developed to estimate 2-meter-height air temperature over the glacier at five sites from site altitude and temperature at a non-glacier reference site.