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News Release

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey


Release: September 7, 2004
Contact:
William Bidlake
253-428-3600, ext. 2641

John Clemens
253-428-3600, ext. 2635

Glacier Packs It On in 2002, Study Shows

[Note: The report can be viewed on the Web at http://pubs.water.usgs.gov/sir20045089/ .]

Washington’s only “benchmark” glacier had a healthy winter in 2002, with the second largest accumulation of winter snow since records began in 1959, according to a report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

The USGS report, which presents the final results of 2002 measurements of South Cascade Glacier in northwestern Washington, also shows that the glacier had a positive mass balance for the 2002 balance year (October 2001 to November 2002).

The mass of a glacier, which is the combined masses of its snow and ice, changes over the seasons as it accumulates snow and ice or loses them through melting or evaporation. Scientists measure the glacier to determine if it accumulated more or less snow in winter than it lost to snow and ice melting in the summer. Scientists use the mass balance as a measure of whether the glacier is growing or shrinking.

“Although over the long term, the glacier is shrinking, South Cascade Glacier did have a healthy 2002,” said USGS hydrologist William Bidlake, lead author of the report. “Since 1959, only one out of every three years has seen a positive balance for the glacier.”

The mass balance program at South Cascade Glacier is part of the USGS monitoring of glacier mass balances throughout the Western States. South Cascade Glacier in Washington and Gulkana and Wolverine Glaciers in Alaska are considered "benchmark glaciers." Records for these glaciers form the basis for examining connections between glaciers and climate.

The report, “Water, Ice, and Meteorological Measurements at South Cascade Glacier, Washington, Balance Year 2002,” by William R. Bidlake, Edward G. Josberger, and Mark E. Savoca, is published as U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5089. The report can be viewed on the Web at http://pubs.water.usgs.gov/sir20045089/ . Copies can be purchased from the U.S. Geological Survey, Information Services, Box 25286, Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225-0286, telephone 303-202-4200.

The USGS serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.

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