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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 10 Sep 2019

Submitted as: research article | 10 Sep 2019

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

Incorporating moisture content in surface energy balance modeling of a debris-covered glacier

Alexandra Giese1, Aaron Boone2, Patrick Wagnon3, and Robert Hawley1 Alexandra Giese et al.
  • 1Department of Earth Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover NH USA
  • 2CNRM-GAME - Groupe d’Étude de l’Atmosphère Météorologique, Toulouse FRANCE
  • 3Univ. Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, IRD, Grenoble-INP, IGE, 38000 Grenoble FRANCE

Abstract. Few surface energy balance models for debris-covered glaciers account for the presence of moisture in the debris, which invariably affects the debris layer's thermal properties and, in turn, the surface energy balance and sub-debris melt of a debris-covered glacier. We adapted the Interactions between Soil, Biosphere, and Atmosphere (ISBA) land surface model within the SURFace EXternalisée (SURFEX) platform to represent glacier debris rather than soil. The new ISBA-DEBris model includes the varying content, transport, and state of moisture in debris with depth and through time. It robustly simulates not only the thermal evolution of the glacier-debris-snow column but also moisture transport and phase changes within the debris – and how these, in turn, affect conductive and latent heat fluxes. We discuss the key developments in the adapted ISBA-DEB and demonstrate the capabilities of the model, including how the time- and depth-varying thermal conductivity and specific heat capacity depend on evolving temperature and moisture. Sensitivity tests emphasize the importance of accurately constraining the roughness lengths and surface slope. Emissivity, in comparison to other tested parameters, has less of an effect on melt. ISBA-DEB builds on existing work to represent the energy balance of a supraglacial debris layer through time in its novel application of a land surface model to debris covered glaciers. Comparison of measured and simulated debris temperatures suggests that ISBA-DEB includes some – but not all – processes relevant to melt under highly permeable debris. Future work, informed by further observations, should explore the importance of advection and vapor transfer.

Alexandra Giese et al.
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Status: open (until 04 Dec 2019)
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Alexandra Giese et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Rocky debris on glacier surfaces is known to affect the melt of mountain glaciers. Debris can be dry or filled to varying extents with liquid water and ice; whether debris is dry vs wet vs icy affects how efficiently heat is conducted through debris from its surface to the glacier interface. Our paper presents a new model with debris moisture, which has been unaddressed in most previous models. ISBA-DEB is applied to West Changri Nup glacier in Nepal to reveal important physical processes.
Rocky debris on glacier surfaces is known to affect the melt of mountain glaciers. Debris can be...