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The geodetic mass balance of Eyjafjallajökull ice cap for 1945–2014: processing guidelines and relation to climate



Mass-balance measurements of Icelandic glaciers are sparse through the 20th century. However, the large archive of stereo images available allows estimates of glacier-wide mass balance ( $\dot{B}$ ) in decadal time steps since 1945. Combined with climate records, they provide further insight into glacier–climate relationship. This study presents a workflow to process aerial photographs (1945–1995), spy satellite imagery (1977–1980) and modern satellite stereo images (since 2000) using photogrammetric techniques and robust statistics in a highly automated, open-source pipeline to retrieve seasonally corrected, decadal glacier-wide geodetic mass balances. In our test area, Eyjafjallajökull (S-Iceland, ~70 km2), we obtain a mass balance of $<![CDATA[ $ \dot{\curr B}_{\curr 1945}^{\curr 2014} \curr = -0.27 \pm 0.03\,{\rm \curr m\ w}{\rm. \curr e}{\rm.} {\rm \curr a}^{{\rm \ndash \curr 1}}$ , with a maximum and minimum of $\dot{\curr B}_{\curr 1984}^{\curr 1989} \curr = 0.77 \curr \pm 0.19\,{\rm \curr m\ \curr w}{\rm\curr . e}{\rm\curr .} {\rm\curr a}^{{\rm\curr \ndash 1}}$ and $\dot{\curr B}_{\curr 1994}^{\curr 1998}\curr = -1.94 \curr \pm 0.34\,{\rm \curr m\ w}{\rm\curr . e}{\rm\curr .} {\rm \curr a}^{{\rm\curr \ndash 1}}$ , respectively, attributed to climatic forcing, and $\dot{\curr B}_{\curr 2009}^{\curr 2010} \curr = -3.39{\rm \;} \curr \pm {\rm \;} \curr 0.43\,{\rm \curr m\ w}{\rm\curr . e}{\rm\curr .} {\rm\curr a}^{{\rm\curr \ndash 1}}$ , mostly caused by the April 2010 eruption. The reference-surface mass balances correlate with summer temperature and winter precipitation, and linear regression accounts for 80% of the mass-balance variability, yielding a static sensitivity of mass balance to summer temperature and winter precipitation of − 2.1 ± 0.4 m w.e.a–1K–1 and 0.5 ± 0.3 m w.e.a–1 (10%)–1, respectively. This study serves as a template that can be used to estimate the mass-balance changes and glaciers' response to climate.

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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.

Corresponding author

Correspondence: Joaquín M. C. Belart <>


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