• energy balance models;
  • glacier ablation;
  • snowmelt;
  • alpine glaciers


This paper describes a point surface energy balance model which runs within the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet package. The study incorporates a large amount of previous energy balance work and presents it in a useable form. The core model calculates the net shortwave and longwave radiation fluxes, the turbulent sensible and latent heat fluxes and the surface melt rate at a point on a melting ice or snow surface, from hourly inputs of incoming shortwave radiation, vapour pressure, air temperature and wind speed data. The latitude, longitude, slope angle, aspect, elevation, local temperature lapse rate, albedo and aerodynamic roughness of the study site, and the elevation of the meteorological station, can all be specified in the model. An output file containing the hourly and daily rates, and the totals of the energy fluxes is generated. The main advantages of the model are: first, that it requires only a PC or laptop computer running standard Microsoft Windows software, enabling it to be used at a desktop or in the field; and second, that it can be adapted quickly to different sites, meteorological data formats and other application requirements. Model calculations are compared with measured surface melt rates at five points on Haut Glacier d'Arolla, Switzerland, over a 115 day ablation period. Allowing for differences in shading between the meteorological station and the glacier, the root mean square error of the calculated melt rates is 2·0 mm day−1 water equivalent melt (mean error +1·2 mm day−1), for measured melt rates in the range 23 to 42 mm day−1 water equivalent melt. Copyright © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.