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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-146
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-146
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 14 Aug 2019

Submitted as: research article | 14 Aug 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

The seasonal evolution of albedo across glaciers and the surrounding landscape of the Taylor Valley, Antarctica

Anna Bergstrom1, Michael Gooseff2, Madeline Myers3, and Peter T. Doran3 Anna Bergstrom et al.
  • 1Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado-Boulder, 80305, United States
  • 2Department of Civil Environmental and Architectural Engineering, University of Colorado-Boulder, 80305, United States
  • 3Department of Geology and Geophysics, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, 70803, United States

Abstract. The McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDVs) of Antarctica are a polar desert ecosystem consisting of alpine glaciers, ice-covered lakes, streams, and expanses of vegetation-free rocky soil. Because average summer temperatures are close to 0 °C, glacier melt dynamics in particular, but the Dry Valley ecosystem in general, are closely linked to the energy balance. A slight increase in incoming radiation or change in albedo can have large effects on the timing and volume of melt water. However, we have yet to fully characterize the seasonal evolution or spatial variability of albedo in the valleys. In this study, we aim to understand the drivers of landscape albedo change within and across seasons. To do so, we used a camera, gps, and short wave radiometer from a helicopter-based platform to fly transects 4–5 times a season along Taylor Valley over three seasons. We coupled these data with incoming radiation measured at 6 meteorological stations distributed along the valley to calculate the distribution of albedo across individual glaciers, lakes, and the soil surfaces. We hypothesized that albedo would decrease throughout the austral summer with ablation of snow patches and ice and increasing sediment exposure on the glacier and lake surfaces. However, small snow events (< 6 mm water equivalent) coupled with ice whitening caused spatial and temporal variability of albedo across the entire landscape. We also observed that individual glacier albedo frequently followed a pattern of increasing albedo with increasing elevation as well as increasing albedo moving from up valley to down valley laterally across the ablation zone of a glacier. Finally, we find that meteorological stations on the glacier frequently measure albedo near or above the highest helicopter-based albedo measurements. We suggest that spatial patterns of albedo are a function of landscape morphology trapping snow and sediment, and longitudinal gradients in snowfall magnitude and wind-driven snow redistribution from up- to down-valley. These findings highlight the importance of understanding the spatial and temporal variability in albedo and the close coupling of climate and landscape response. We can use this new understanding of landscape albedo to better constrain landscape energy budgets, better predict melt water generation on from MDV glaciers, and how these ecosystems will respond to changing climate at the landscape scale.

Anna Bergstrom et al.
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Anna Bergstrom et al.
Data sets

McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER: Landscape Albedo in Taylor Valley, Antarctica from 2015 to 2019 A. Bergstrom and M. Gooseff https://doi.org/10.6073/pasta/728016d29b9a7df1eec1cf1ac9b17c23

McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER: High frequency measurements from Canada Glacier Meteorological Station (CAAM) - Taylor Valley, Antarctica - 1987 to present P. T. Doran and A. G. Fountain https://doi.org/10.6073/pasta/72b6851a637a29982ae6898a7f61a0eb

McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER: High frequency measurements from Commonwealth Glacier Meteorological Station (COHM) - Taylor Valley, Antarctica - 1987 to present P. T. Doran and A. G. Fountain https://doi.org/10.6073/pasta/16a9543aa5a72ead75c40a89038e8f0f

McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER: High frequency measurements from Lake Bonney Meteorological Station (BOYM) - Taylor Valley, Antarctica - 1987 to present P. T. Doran and A. G. Fountain https://doi.org/10.6073/pasta/bee9b480f56ed8ea651b03648ee43c8d

McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER: High frequency measurements from Lake Fryxell Meteorological Station (FRLM) - Taylor Valley, Antarctica - 1987 to present P. T. Doran and A. G. Fountain https://doi.org/10.6073/pasta/5eded15437054e7f72f2350e98c44717

McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER: High frequency measurements from Lake Hoare Meteorological Station (HOEM) - Taylor Valley, Antarctica - 1987 to present P. T. Doran and A. G. Fountain https://doi.org/10.6073/pasta/1dd10a2c705fed76b2017c6a1819b95b

McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER: High frequency measurements from Taylor Glacier Meteorological Station (TARM) - Taylor Valley, Antarctica - 1987 to present P. T. Doran and A. G. Fountain https://doi.org/10.6073/pasta/a1df5cdab3319e9adeb18f8448fd363e

Anna Bergstrom et al.
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Short summary
This study sought to understand patterns of reflectance of visible light across the landscape of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. We used a helicopter-based platform to measure reflectance along an entire valley with a particular focus on the glaciers, as reflectance strongly controls glacier melt and available water to the downstream ecosystem. We found that patterns are controlled by gradients in snowfall, wind redistribution and landscape structure, which can trap snow and sediment.
This study sought to understand patterns of reflectance of visible light across the landscape of...
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