Climate Dynamics

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 85–98 | Cite as

A precipitation-dominated, mid-latitude glacier system: Mount Shasta, California

  • Ian M. HowatEmail author
  • Slawek Tulaczyk
  • Philip Rhodes
  • Kevin Israel
  • Mark Snyder


Temperature is often seen as the dominant control on inter-decadal glacier volume changes. However, despite regional warming over the past half-century, the glaciers of Mount Shasta have continued to expand following a contraction during a prolonged drought in the early twentieth century, indicating a greater sensitivity to precipitation than temperature. We use the 110 year record of fluctuations in Mount Shasta’s glaciers and climate to calibrate numerical glacier models of the two largest glaciers. The reconstructed balance and volume histories show a much greater correlation to precipitation than temperature and significant correlation to oscillatory modes of Pacific Ocean climate. An approximately 20% increase in precipitation is needed for every 1°C increase in temperature to maintain stability. Under continued historical trends, oscillations in climate modes and random variability will dominate inter-decadal variability in ice volume. Under the strong warming trend predicted by a regional climate model, the temperature trend will be the dominant forcing resulting in near total loss of Mount Shasta’s glaciers by the end of the twenty-first century.


Regional Climate Model Pacific Decadal Oscillation Winter Precipitation Southern Oscillation Index Snow Water Equivalent 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was funded by the University of California Center for Water Resources, the STEPS Institute and the American Alpine Club. We gratefully acknowledge the help of our six field assistants , the U. S. Forest Service, and the USGS Photogrammetry Lab. A. Fountain and an anonymous reviewer helped to improve the manuscript.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian M. Howat
    • 1
    Email author
  • Slawek Tulaczyk
    • 1
  • Philip Rhodes
    • 2
  • Kevin Israel
    • 1
  • Mark Snyder
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA
  2. 2.Mill ValleyUSA

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