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Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-78
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-78
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 31 Mar 2020

Submitted as: research article | 31 Mar 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Insights into the effect of spatial and temporal flow variations on turbulent heat exchange at a mountain glacier

Rebecca Mott1,2, Ivana Stipserki3, Lindsey Nicholson3, and Jordan Mertes3 Rebecca Mott et al.
  • 1WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, Davos, Switzerland
  • 2Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research, Atmospheric Environmental Research (KIT/IMK-IFU), Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
  • 3Department of Atmospheric and Cryospheric Sciences, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria

Abstract. Multi-scale interactions between the glacier surface, the overlying atmosphere and the surrounding alpine terrain are highly complex. The high heterogeneity of boundary layer processes that couple these systems drives temporally and spatially variable energy fluxes and melt rates. A comprehensive measurement campaign, the HEFEX (Hintereisferner Experiment), was conducted during the summer of 2018. The aim of this experiment was to investigate spatial and temporal dynamics of the near-surface boundary layer and associated heat exchange processes close to the glacier surface during the melting season. The experimental setup of five meteorological stations was designed to capture the spatial and temporal characteristics of the local wind system on the glacier and to quantify the contribution of horizontal heat advection from surrounding ice-free areas to the local energy flux variability at the glacier. Turbulence data suggest that the temporal change in the local wind system strongly affect the micrometeorology at the glacier. Low-level katabatic flows were persistently measured during both night time and daytime and were responsible for consistently low near-surface air temperatures with small spatial variations at the glacier. On the contrary, local turbulence profiles of momentum and heat revealed strong changes of the local thermodynamic characteristics at the glacier when larger-scale westerly flows disturbed the prevailing katabatic flow forming low-level across-glacier flows. Warm air advection from the surrounding ice-free areas significantly increased near-surface air-temperatures at the glacier, with strong horizontal temperature gradients from the peripheral zones towards the centerline of the glacier. Despite generally lower near-surface wind speeds during the across-glacier flow, peak horizontal heat advection from the peripheral zones towards the centerline and strong transport of turbulence from higher atmospheric layers downward resulted in enhanced turbulent heat exchange towards the glacier surface at the glacier centerline. Thus, at the centerline of the glacier the exposure to strong larger-scale westerly winds promoted heat exchange processes at the glacier surface potentially contributing to ice melt. On the contrary, at the peripheral zones of the glacier turbulence data indicate that stronger sheltering from the larger-scale flows allowed the preservation of a katabatic jet, which suppressed the efficiency of the across-glacier flow to drive heat exchange towards the glacier surface by decoupling low-level atmospheric layers from the flow aloft. To explain the origin of the across-glacier flow would however require large eddy simulations.

Rebecca Mott et al.

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Rebecca Mott et al.

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Short summary
Investigation of spatial and temporal dynamics of the near-surface boundary layer and associated heat exchange processes at the glacier surface during the melting season. Observation of low-level katabatic flows which were responsible for consistently low near-surface air temperatures with small spatial variations at the glacier. Strong changes of the local thermodynamic characteristics at the glacier when larger-scale flows disturbed katabatic flows including strong warm air advection.
Investigation of spatial and temporal dynamics of the near-surface boundary layer and associated...
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