The areal distribution of glacier annual mass balance b(z) is an important characteristic of the existence of glacierization and its evolution. At present the measured value of annual mass balance at different elevations is only available for a limited number of mountain glaciers of the globe, because of the great amount of labour required for such measurements.
The analysis of long-term mass-balance measurements made at Abramova glacier, Limmerngletscher, White Glacier, Hintereisferner, and Peyto Glacier has revealed that for each year the spatial distribution of annual mass balance is well described by quadratic equations. The main variable in these equations is altitude (z). The various parameters of these formulae are estimated by the author for mean weighted height of the ablation and accumulation areas, and for the glaciers as a whole. It is found that the parameters of annual mass balance for each glacier can be calculated from formulae which include combinations of the following variables: annual balance at one of the three weighted altitudes, maximum annual snow-line elevation, annual and seasonal amounts of precipitation, and air temperatures at nearby meteorological stations.
Therefore, in order to calculate the distribution of annual mass balance as a function of absolute altitude, it is sufficient to obtain a value for mass balance measured only at a single point on a glacier, and common meteorological observational data. A comparison of actual and calculated values of mass balance has shown good agreement between them.
Considering the successful use of aerial remote-sensing for the measurement of snow depth in mountains by means of special stakes, it is satisfactory to accept this method for the assessment of annual mass balance at the mean weighted altitude of the ablation zone. It is possible to use aerial photo-surveys or stereophotogrammetry to resolve this problem. Then annual mass balance for the whole area of a glacier is calculated by using data from one point together with data from a nearby meteorological station.