A degree-day glacier mass-balance model is applied to three glaciers in Iceland, Norway and Greenland for which detailed mass-balance measurements are available over a period of several years. Model results are in good agreement with measured variations in the mass balance with elevation over the time periods considered for each glacier. In addition, the model explains 60-80% of the year-to-year variance in the elevation-averaged summer season mass-balance measurements on the glaciers, using a single parameter set for each glacier.
The increase in ablation on the glaciers due to a warming of 2° C is predicted to range from about 1 m w.e. year−1 at the highest elevations to about 2.5 m w.e. year−1 at the lowest elevations. Predicted changes in the winter balance (measured between fixed date) are relatively small, except at the lowest elevations on the Icelandic and Norwegian glaciers where the winter balance is significantly reduced. Equilibrium-line altitudes are raised by 200-300 m on the Icelandic and Norwegian glaciers. Except at the highest elevations, the winter balance of the Icelandic and Norwegian glaciers is predicted to decrease even if the warming is accompanied by a 10% increase in the precipitation.
No firm evidence of a climate-related variation in the degree-day factors or in the temperature lapse rate on the same glacier could be found. The model, furthermore, reproduces large variations in the mass balance with elevation and from year to year on each glacier using the same parameter set. We assume, therefore, that these parameters will not change significantly for the climate scenarios considered here.