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Journal of Glaciology

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McMurdo Dry Valleys (Antarctica), Glaciers -- Antarctica -- McMurdo Dry Valleys, Meltwater -- Antarctica -- McMurdo Dry Valleys


The McMurdo Dry Valleys are a cold, dry polar desert and the alpine glaciers therein exhibit small annual and seasonal mass balances, often <±0.06 m w.e. Typically, winter is the accumulation season, but significant snow storms can occur any time of year occasionally making summer the accumulation season. The yearly equilibrium line altitude is poorly correlated with mass balance because the elevation gradient of mass balance on each glacier can change dramatically from year to year. Most likely, winds redistribute the light snowfall disrupting the normal gradient of increasing mass balance with elevation. Reconstructed cumulative mass balance shows that the glaciers have lost <2 m w.e. over the past half century and area changes show minimal retreat. In most cases these changes are less than the uncertainty and the glaciers are considered in equilibrium. Since 2000, however, the glaciers have lost mass despite relatively stable summer air temperatures suggesting a different mechanism in play. Whether this trend is a harbinger of future changes or a temporary excursion is unclear.


COPYRIGHT: © The Author(s) 2016 This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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