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Estimated Wind River Range (Wyoming, USA) Glacier Melt Water Contributions to Agriculture

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Type: Journal Article
Author: Cheesbrough, Kyle; Edmunds, Jake; Tootle, Glenn; Kerr, Greg; Pochop, Larry
Journal: Remote Sensing
Volume: 1
Page(s): 818-828
Date: 2009
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/7031
Sector: Agriculture
Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: North America
Subject(s): glaciers
water supply
agricultural development
Abstract: "In 2008, Wyoming was ranked 8th in barley production and 20th in hay production in the United States and these crops support Wyoming’s $800 million cattle industry. However, with a mean elevation of 2,040 meters, much of Wyoming has a limited crop growing season (as little as 60 days) and relies on late-summer and early-fall streamflow for agricultural water supply. Wyoming is host to over 80 glaciers with the majority of these glaciers being located in the Wind River Range. These 'frozen reservoirs' provide a stable source of streamflow (glacier meltwater) during this critical late-summer and early-fall growing season. Given the potential impacts of climate change (increased temperatures resulting in glacier recession), the quantification of glacier meltwater during the late-summer and early-fall growing seasons is needed. Glacier area changes in the Wind River Range were estimated for 42 glaciers using Landsat data from 1985 to 2005. The total surface area of the 42 glaciers was calculated to be 41.2 ± 11.7 km2 in 1985 and 30.8 ± 8.2 km2 in 2005, an average decrease of 25% over the 21 year period. Small glaciers experienced noticeably more area reduction than large glaciers. Of the 42 glaciers analyzed, 17 had an area of greater than 0.5 km2 in 1985, while 25 were less than 0.5 km2 in 1985. The glaciers with a surface area less than 0.5 km2 experienced an average surface area loss (fraction of 1985 surface area) of 43%, while the larger glaciers (greater than 0.5 km2) experienced an average surface area loss of 22%. Applying area-volume scaling relationships for glaciers, volume loss was estimated to be 409 × 106 m3 over the 21 year period, which results in an estimated 4% to 10% contribution to warm season (July–October) streamflow."

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