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Cold firn and ice of high-altitude glaciers in the Alps: measurements and distribution modelling


Suter, Stephan; Laternser, Martin; Haeberli, Wilfried; Frauenfelder, Regula; Hoelzle, Martin (2001). Cold firn and ice of high-altitude glaciers in the Alps: measurements and distribution modelling. Journal of Glaciology, 47(156):85-96.

Abstract

The thermal regime of high-altitude accumulation areas in the Swiss Alps was systematically investigated on the Jungfraufirn, Bernese Alps, on the Breithornplateau, Valais Alps, and on Grenzgletscher, Valais Alps. In 1991, 1992 and 1994, temperatures were measured in a deep hole (120 m deep) and in several shallow holes (14−30 m deep). Whereas the wide névé of the Jungfraufirn at 3400-3600 m a.s.l. and the 3800 m high Breithorn-plateau seems to be predominantly temperate, cold firn and ice temperatures were measured throughout on Grenzgletscher (3900-4450 m a.s.l.). Mean firn temperatures on Grenzgletscher vary strongly and range between −3° and −14°C. A comparison between the measured temperature profiles and a one-dimensional heat-conduction calculation shows that the release of latent heat by penetrating and refreezing meltwater decisively influences the thermal pattern of the firn pack. A multiple linear regression model, based on measured firn temperatures from the European Alps and the parameters altitude and aspect, yields aspect dependent lower boundaries for the occurrence of cold firn ranging between 3400 (northerly aspects) and 4150 m a.s.l. (southerly aspects). A total of 120 glaciers with cold-firn areas are found when applying the model to glacier inventory data from the European Alps.

Abstract

The thermal regime of high-altitude accumulation areas in the Swiss Alps was systematically investigated on the Jungfraufirn, Bernese Alps, on the Breithornplateau, Valais Alps, and on Grenzgletscher, Valais Alps. In 1991, 1992 and 1994, temperatures were measured in a deep hole (120 m deep) and in several shallow holes (14−30 m deep). Whereas the wide névé of the Jungfraufirn at 3400-3600 m a.s.l. and the 3800 m high Breithorn-plateau seems to be predominantly temperate, cold firn and ice temperatures were measured throughout on Grenzgletscher (3900-4450 m a.s.l.). Mean firn temperatures on Grenzgletscher vary strongly and range between −3° and −14°C. A comparison between the measured temperature profiles and a one-dimensional heat-conduction calculation shows that the release of latent heat by penetrating and refreezing meltwater decisively influences the thermal pattern of the firn pack. A multiple linear regression model, based on measured firn temperatures from the European Alps and the parameters altitude and aspect, yields aspect dependent lower boundaries for the occurrence of cold firn ranging between 3400 (northerly aspects) and 4150 m a.s.l. (southerly aspects). A total of 120 glaciers with cold-firn areas are found when applying the model to glacier inventory data from the European Alps.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2001
Deposited On:20 Jul 2012 22:46
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:53
Publisher:International Glaciological Society
ISSN:0022-1430
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3189/172756501781832566

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