Department or Program

Environmental Studies


Glaciers act as important water storage units that supply both human and ecological communities. However, glacial systems are threatened by rising global temperatures as well as light absorbing particles (LAPs) on the surface and within the snowpack that increase energy absorption and decrease albedo. The majority of hydrological models used to examine glacial melt at the watershed level assume a constant albedo of 0.75 for all snow surfaces. This assumption neglects the impact that LAPs have on albedo, energy processes, and melt rates. Additionally, current models used to simulate changes in albedo due to LAPs do not separate the impacts of LAPs on the surface and LAPs within the snowpack. The model presented in this study aims to separate the impacts of LAPs on the surface, LAPs within the snowpack, and temperature on melt and albedo within the glacial snowpack system. Scenarios aimed at quantifying such impacts as well as identifying the behavior of the model within specified input ranges were run using experimental data. The concentration of LAPs in the snowpack had the greatest impact on all output variables from the model. Additionally, simulations of LAP accumulation at the col and summit of Pisco in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru were run in order to compare model outputs with raw field data. The model produced simulated LAP concentrations within ±22.1 ng g-1 of the measured value at the col and ±0.01 ng g-1 at the summit. Finally, scenarios were run in order to simulate towers created through anthropogenic tampering of the surface albedo. The model produced simulated tower heights of up to 2.5 meters. This model may be constructed further in order to be integrated into a larger hydrological model, which could have broad implications for the impact of glacial melt due to LAPs within watershed systems.

Level of Access

Restricted: Embargoed [Open Access After Expiration]

First Advisor

Holly Ewing

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Open Access

Available to all.