The effect of glaciers on streamflow variations

TitleThe effect of glaciers on streamflow variations
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1985
AuthorsFountain AG, Tangborn WV
JournalWater Resources Research

The effect of temperate glaciers on runoff variations is examined for the North Cascade Mountains of Washington State. The principal influences of glaciers on streamflow are often unexpected contributions to streamflow volume, a delay of the maximum seasonal flow, and a decrease in annual and monthly variation of runoff. The delay of maximum flow is caused by temporary englacial storage of spring meltwater and by peak meltwater production occurring in midsummer. The englacial storage, for one case, is 54% of the potential May runoff. An algorithm is presented that calculates the coefficient of variation of runoff for any arbitrary glacier cover. The results suggest that a minimum in year-to-year variation occurs for basins about 36% glacierized. On a month-to-month basis, maximum variation occurs in July and August for basins with less than 10% glacier cover but is a minimum for basins with glacier covers greater than 30%.