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Glacier-Wide Mass Balance and Compiled Data Inputs: USGS Benchmark Glaciers

Data Download [1.5MB] | Metadata | AK Science Portal | Project Site | Date Range: 1966 - 2016

Since the late 1950s, the USGS has maintained a long-term glacier mass-balance program at three North American glaciers. Measurements began on South Cascade Glacier, WA in 1958, expanding to Gulkana and Wolverine glaciers, AK in 1966, and later Sperry Glacier, MT in 2005. Additional measurements have been made on Lemon Creek and Taku glaciers, AK to compliment data collected by the Juneau Icefield Research Program (JIRP; Pelto et al., 2013). Direct field measurements of point glaciological data are combined with weather and geodetic data to derive glacier-wide seasonal and annual surface mass balance solutions of each glacier in conventional and reference surface formats (Cogley et al., 2011). Additional details on the calculation of glacier-wide surface mass balance are described in Van Beusekom et al. (2010).

This dataset contains glacier-wide mass balance solutions, along with compiled input data. This is composed of 1) time-variable area altitude distribution (AAD); 2) time series of point water balance at index sites on each glacier (with secondary sites given in recent years); 3) weather data from stations installed along the glacier margins, or, if unavailable, other nearby sites as indicated. Two solution sets are output for each glacier: 1) Conventional glacier-wide mass balance from direct observations; 2) Geodetically calibrated, conventional glacier-wide mass balance, which represents our preferred solution. Output data represent surface mass balance estimates. We do not explicitly account for basal or englacial accumulation or ablation. Mass balances are reported in water equivalent (w.e.) units, and often represent integration of multiple field measurements. Whenever possible, we average multiple field measurements to account for surface roughness and measurement errors. Individual point measurements area available in an associated raw glaciological data release within the larger USGS Benchmark Glacier Mass Balance and Project Data Collection (

Author(s): O'Neel, S. R.; Fagre, D. B.; Baker, E. H.; Sass, L. C.; McNeil, C. J.; Peitzsch, E. H.; McGrath, D.; Florentine, C. E.

Suggested Citation:
O'Neel, S. R., Fagre, D. B., Baker, E. H., Sass, L. C., McNeil, C. J., Peitzsch, E. H., McGrath, D. and Florentine, C. E., 2018, Glacier-Wide Mass Balance and Compiled Data Inputs: USGS Benchmark Glaciers (ver. 2.1, June 2018): U.S. Geological Survey data release,

Version History:
First release: August 2016
August 2017 (ver. 2.0)
June 2018 (ver. 2.1)

Referenced Publication(s):
O'Neel, S. R., E. W. Hood, A. A. Arendt, and L. C. Sass. 2014. Assessing streamflow sensitivity to variations in glacier mass balance. Climatic Change 123(2):329-341. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-1042-7
Van Beusekom, A. E., S. R. O'Neel, R. S. March, L. C. Sass, and L. H. Cox. 2010. Re-analysis of Alaskan benchmark glacier mass-balance data using the index method. USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2010-5247, 16 p.

DataID: 79 | doi:10.5066/F7HD7SRF | Date Posted Online: 2018-05-24 | Last Updated: 2018-09-18 09:39:02