Despite their relatively common
occurrence, debris-covered glaciers have not been well studied, in
part because we do not have practical methods to measure or predict
the melting rate of the ice under the debris. This fundamental
variable is crucial for mass balance calculations, response to
climatic variations, and for water runoff. From a hydrological
perspective, debris-covered glaciers commonly develop supraglacial
lakes that can release disastrous floods.
In addition to issues directly
concerning debris-covered glaciers, rock glaciers may be an
end-member in the spectrum of glaciers, possibly originating from
debris-covered glaciers. Current debate on the origin of rock
glaciers and their possible genetic connection to debris-covered
glaciers highlights fundamental issues regarding debris transport
and energy balances.
The Workshop on Debris-Covered Glaciers
(Seattle, September 2000) was organized with the aim of synthesizing
our current understanding about debris-covered glaciers and rock
glaciers. By drawing on experiences from different regions of the
world it was hoped to highlight the underlying physical processes
controlling the nature of debris-covered and rock glaciers. This
publication comprises 28 papers selected for the workshop.