USGS Washington Water Science Center
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Glaciers, snow, and ice sheets are important components of the Earth's water and climate. They respond to and indicate changes in climate, as well as exerting an influence on global and regional climate. They also have an effect on water resources, serving as natural reservoirs. Measuring changes in the size and volume of glaciers and snowpacks provides one direct way of knowing what kind of effects are caused by variations in the global climate. What is not well understood is the relation of snow and ice to climate change and water resources.
Long-term records of glacier changes provide information about climate variability as well as the water available to basins through meltwater. Snowpacks have a great impact on atmospheric circulation and are an important source of water.
To provide scientific information on the variability of the Nation's water resources and to further the understanding of climate change, the USGS monitors the annual accumulation, ablation, and net mass balance at South Cascade Glacier. The USGS also examines snowpack by means of satellite passive microwave and other observations. A complete description of the USGS benchmark glacier monitoring program can be accessed at http://ak.water.usgs.gov/glaciology