The relationship between synoptic-scale atmospheric circulation and glacier mass balance in the Cordillera of south-western Canada is investigated. Objective synoptic typing techniques are applied to glaciometeorological data from Peyto Glacier, Alberta, and Sentinel Glacier, British Columbia, and to climatological data from nearby weather stations. Two scales of 500 mbar synoptic weather maps are analyzed and compared. One is smaller with high-wavenumber patterns, the other is larger with more general patterns.
The results demonstrate that the mass balance of Peyto and Sentinel Glaciers are related to the 500 mbar patterns. Synoptic types with cyclonic curvature favor glacier accumulation, while anticyclonic types inhibit build-up of the regional snow-pack. Ablation is suppressed by synoptic types associated with cloudy days and/or low temperatures, and is enhanced by types associated with warm, sunny days. Furthermore, findings suggest that both the accumulation and ablation of Sentinel Glacier are controlled by small-scale, high-wavenumber synoptic patterns. Conversely, Peyto Glacier accumulation is more closely associated with large-scale patterns, suggesting that high-frequency mid-tropospheric oscillations embedded within the slow-moving baroclinic zones associated with long-wave disturbances may be dampened by the rough topography of the Canadian Cordillera. Ablation is predicted poorly by both scales at Peyto.