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Every winter, snowy landscapes are smoothed by snow deposition in calm conditions (no wind). In this study, we investigated how vertically falling snow attenuates topographic relief at horizontal scales less than or approximately equal to snow depth (e.g., 0.1–10 m). In a set of three experiments under natural snowfall, we observed the particle-scale mechanisms by which smoothing is achieved, and we examined the cumulative effect at the snowpack scale. The experiments consisted of (a) a strobe-light box for tracking the trajectories of snowflakes at deposition, (b) allowing snow to fall through a narrow gap (40 mm) and examining snow accumulation above and below the gap, and (c) allowing snow to accumulate over a set of artificial surfaces. At the particle scale, we observed mechanisms enhancing (bouncing, rolling, ejection, breakage, creep, metamorphism) and retarding (interlocking, cohesion, adhesion, sintering) the rate of smoothing. The cumulative effect of these mechanisms is found to be driven by snowpack surface curvature, introducing a directional bias in the lateral transport of snow particles. Our findings suggest that better quantification of the mechanisms behind smoothing by snow could provide insights into the evolution of snow depth variability, and snow-vegetation interactions.
In this work we tested the suitability of thermistor strings as automatic tools for the continuous measurement of glacier ice ablation. Experimental data collected in summer 2017 over an Italian glacier provided ice ablation readings with accuracy similar to manual measurements with ablation stakes and other automatic systems, like the draw-wire method and the Bøggild ablatometer. Thermistor strings have potential for future applications in remote glacier monitoring, thanks to their flexibility, simple construction, and robustness.
We present a workflow to track icebergs in proglacial fjords using oblique time-lapse photos and the Lucas-Kanade optical flow algorithm. We employ the workflow at LeConte Bay, Alaska, where we ran five time-lapse cameras between April 2016 and September 2017, capturing more than 400 000 photos at frame rates of 0.5–4.0 min−1. Hourly to daily average velocity fields in map coordinates illustrate dynamic currents in the bay, with dominant downfjord velocities (exceeding 0.5 m s−1 intermittently) and several eddies. Comparisons with simultaneous Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) measurements yield best agreement for the uppermost ADCP levels (~ 12 m and above), in line with prevalent small icebergs that trace near-surface currents. Tracking results from multiple cameras compare favorably, although cameras with lower frame rates (0.5 min−1) tend to underestimate high flow speeds. Tests to determine requisite temporal and spatial image resolution confirm the importance of high image frame rates, while spatial resolution is of secondary importance. Application of our procedure to other fjords will be successful if iceberg concentrations are high enough and if the camera frame rates are sufficiently rapid (at least 1 min−1 for conditions similar to LeConte Bay).
In the current ice-sheet models calving of ice shelves is based on phenomenological approaches. To obtain physics-based calving criteria, a viscoelastic Maxwell model is required accounting for short-term elastic and long-term viscous deformation. On timescales of months to years between calving events, as well as on long timescales with several subsequent iceberg break-offs, deformations are no longer small and linearized strain measures cannot be used. We present a finite deformation framework of viscoelasticity and extend this model by a nonlinear Glen-type viscosity. A finite element implementation is used to compute stress and strain states in the vicinity of the ice-shelf calving front. Stress and strain maxima of small (linearized strain measure) and finite strain formulations differ by ~ 5% after 1 and by ~ 30% after 10 years, respectively. A finite deformation formulation reaches a critical stress or strain faster, thus calving rates will be higher, despite the fact that the exact critical values are not known. Nonlinear viscosity of Glen-type leads to higher stress values. The Maxwell material model formulation for finite deformations presented here can also be applied to other glaciological problems, for example, tidal forcing at grounding lines or closure of englacial and subglacial melt channels.
We use the full-Stokes model Elmer/Ice to investigate the present dynamics of Bowdoin Glacier, a marine-terminating outlet glacier in northwestern Greenland. Short-term speed variations of the glacier were observed, correlating with air temperature and precipitation, and with the semi-diurnal ocean tides. We use a control inverse method to determine the distribution of basal friction. This reveals that most of the glacier area is characterized by near-plug-flow conditions, while some sticky spots are also identified. We then conduct experiments to test the sensitivity of the glacier flow to basal lubrication and tidal forcing at the calving front. Reduction of the basal drag by 10–40% produces speed-ups that agree approximately with the observed range of speed-ups that result from warm weather and precipitation events. In agreement with the observations, tidal forcing and surface speed near the calving front are found to be in anti-phase (high tide corresponds to low speed, and vice versa). However, the amplitude of the semi-diurnal variability is underpredicted by a factor ~ 3, which is likely related to either inaccuracies in the surface and bedrock topographies or mechanical weakening due to crevassing.
Measurements of short-interval variations in glacier surface velocity, which contribute to our understanding of ice motion mechanisms, remain scarce on the Tibetan Plateau. Here we present sub-hourly measurements of glacier surface motion variations at the terminus region of Laohugou No. 12 Glacier. Field observations were collected over 4 d in July 2015 from terrestrial radar interferometry. The observed glacier displacement time series are generally in agreement with the results measured by differential GPS and highlight that glacier surface velocity is characterized by clear diurnal fluctuations in the study period. During day-time hours, glacier flow speeds were higher than 3.0 mm h−1, whereas they were below 1.0 mm h−1 during night-time hours. The large diurnal fluctuations of glacier surface velocity indicate that variations in basal slip are the dominant motion mechanism. Moreover, a positive correlation (R = 0.82, P < 0.001) between air temperature and glacier surface velocity suggests that glacier motion variations are probably affected by changes in air temperature during the ablation season.
The quantification of snow transport, both in wind tunnels and the field, apply particle counting methods limited to punctual sampling of relatively small volumes. Particle counting can only capture horizontal mass fluxes, failing to measure snow erosion or deposition. Herein, we present a novel low-cost sensor tool, based on a Microsoft Kinect, adapted to capture snow surface changes during snow drifting at unprecedented spatial and temporal resolutions. In the wind tunnel setting of these experiments we observe a balance between erosion and deposition at low wind speeds, while erosion is dominant at higher wind speeds. Significant differences in power spectral densities of surface mass flux and horizontal particle mass flux are observed. We show that for the saltation-length-scale parameter λ = 1, the integrated particle flux can be used to estimate the total surface mass flux in the wind tunnel. This provides an important basis to interpret mass flux measurements in the field.
We show a strong difference in surface mass and energy balance of a mountain glacier and two sites on the ice sheet at 64°N in West Greenland using stake and automated weather station observations. Net surface mass balance is on average 2.2 m w.e. less negative at the coast compared with the ice sheet in the same elevation. We find a larger energy turnover at the ice sheet margin on Qamanarssup Sermia than measured on the coastal mountain glacier Qassigiannguit with both energy input and output being of larger absolute value. More cloudiness and a thicker snow cover at the relatively humid coastal glacier result in smaller gains in net-shortwave radiation and smaller losses in net-longwave radiation and a less negative mass balance. Lower wind speeds at the coastal glacier result in weaker turbulent heat exchange between atmosphere and ice surface. On annual average, 17 W m−2 more energy is available for melt at the ice-sheet margin compared with the coastal glacier in the same elevation.
Although glaciers in High Mountain Asia produce an enormous amount of water used by downstream populations, they remain poorly observed in the field. This study presents a geodetic mass balance of the glaciers in the Astore Basin (with differential GPS (dGPS) measurements on Harcho glacier) between 1999 and 2016. Changes near the terminus of Harcho glacier (below 3800 m a.s.l.) featured heterogeneous surface elevation changes, whereas the middle section shows the most negative changes. The surface elevation changes were positive above 4200 m a.s.l. The average annual mass balance was −0.08 ± 0.07 m w.e. a−1 derived from a dGPS and DEM comparison whereas Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer DEM-based results show a slightly positive, that is 0.03 ± 0.24 m w.e. a−1 in the same period. In contrast, the terminus indicates a substantial retreat of ~368 m (4.5 m a−1) between 1934 and 2016. The average mass balance of 19 glaciers (>2 km2) covering ~60% of the total glaciers in the Basin exhibit no net mass loss in the period of 2000−2016 and follow a pattern similar to adjacent Karakoram glaciers.
Relatively little is known about the physical mechanisms that drive the dynamics of the East Antarctic outlet glaciers. Here we conduct a remote-sensing investigation of the Polar Record Glacier (PRG), East Antarctica to analyze its ice flow acceleration, ice front variations and ice surface melting. Ice flow speeds at PRG increased by up to 15% from 2005 to 2015, with substantial interannual fluctuations. The ice velocities also showed seasonal variations, accelerating by up to 9% between September and January. Multiple mechanisms contribute to the observed seasonal variations: the initial acceleration may result from the lost back-stress provided by the sea ice in the austral spring and the later speedup relate to the surface meltwater that leads to weakened ice shelf and shear margins. The sensitivity of the PRG to oceanic forcing is confirmed by comparing the secular ice velocity increases with ocean temperatures. These measurements suggest that the dynamics of East Antarctic ice shelves are sensitive to melt at both the surface and base, at a range of timescales.
The British Antarctic Survey Rapid Access Isotope Drill is an innovative new class of electromechanical ice drill, which has recently been used to drill the deepest dry hole drilled by an electromechanical auger drill. The record-breaking depth of 461.58 m was drilled in just over 104 hours at Little Dome C. The drill collects ice chippings, for water stable isotope analysis, rather than an ice core. By not collecting a core the winch can be geared for speed rather than core breaking and is lightweight. Furthermore, emptying of the chippings is performed by simply reversing the drill motor on the surface reducing the overall drilling time significantly. The borehole is then available for instrumentation. We describe the drill in its current state including modifications carried out since it was last deployed. Test seasons and the lessons learned from each are outlined. Finally, future developments for this class of drill are discussed.
A linear model was used to investigate the behaviour of the Italian Western Tauri glaciers as a result of temperature changes projected for the 21st century. The model estimates the temperature variations once the glacier snout length variations are known and vice versa: it estimates the glacier snout length variations once the air temperature variations are known or predicted. The 46 glaciers of the Italian Western Tauri, 35 (76%) of which have areas smaller than 0.5 km2 and only 7 (15%) larger than 1 km2, are mostly mountain type glaciers and only three are presently valley glaciers. The model has been forced by the air temperature projections of the A1B emission scenario, which indicates an increase in temperature of 2.7°C from 2015 to 2100. The results show a shortening of more than 35% for mountain glaciers by 2100 with a surface loss of more than 60% and smaller reductions for valley glaciers. The consequent fragmentation into smaller units would lead to the extinction of 95% of the existing glaciers by the end of the century, possibly leaving only the valley glaciers surviving.
Multiple studies on regional glacier mass balance in the Pamir Mountains have been conducted using the geodetic method, but they were rarely extended to the period before 2000. In this study, we used KH-9 imagery acquired in 1975 to generate the historical DEM for the central Pamir, and then obtained the glacier elevation change by comparing this with the SRTM C-band DEM. The penetration depth of the C-band radar was corrected for different glacier surfaces, i.e. 2.96, 1.68 and 0 m for firn/snow cover, bare ice and debris-covered areas, respectively. The final results suggest that the central Pamir glaciers, overall, experienced a near-zero mass balance of −0.03 ± 0.24 m w.e. a−1 for 1975–99. Due to glacier surge activity, the elevation change patterns of individual glaciers were highly variable, and their mass balances varied from −0.12 ± 0.26 to 0.63 ± 0.20 m w.e. a−1. The mean mass budgets of the surge-type glaciers and non-surge-type glaciers were 0.03 ± 0.14 and −0.05 ± 0.28 m w.e. a−1, respectively. Concurring with previous studies, we conclude that the central Pamir glaciers may have been in a state of approximately balanced mass budget or slight mass deficit from the mid-1970s to the mid-2010s.
Over recent decades, the number of outlet glaciers terminating in lakes in Iceland has increased in line with climate warming. The mass-balance changes of these lake-terminating outlet glaciers are sensitive to rising air temperatures, due to altered glacier dynamics and increased surface melt. This study aims to better understand the relationship between proglacial lake development, climate, glacier dynamics and glacier structure at Fjallsjökull, a large, lake-terminating outlet glacier in south-east Iceland. We used satellite imagery to map glacier terminus position and lake extent between 1973 and 2016, and a combination of aerial and satellite imagery to map the structural architecture of the glacier's terminus in 1982, 1994 and 2011. The temporal evolution of ice surface velocities between 1990 and 2018 was calculated using feature tracking. Statistically significant increases in the rate of terminus retreat and lake expansion were identified in 2001, 2009 and 2011. Our surface velocity and structural datasets revealed the development of localised flow ‘corridors’ over time, which conveyed relatively faster flow towards the glacier's terminus. We attribute the overall changes in dynamics and structural architecture at Fjallsjökull to rising air temperatures, but argue that the spatial complexities are driven by glacier specific factors, such as basal topography.
Surface debris covers much of the western portion of the McMurdo Ice Shelf and has a strong influence on the local surface albedo and energy balance. Differential ablation between debris-covered and debris-free areas creates an unusual heterogeneous surface of topographically low, high-ablation, and topographically raised (‘pedestalled’), low-ablation areas. Analysis of Landsat and MODIS satellite imagery from 1999 to 2018, alongside field observations from the 2016/2017 austral summer, shows that pedestalled relict lakes (‘pedestals’) form when an active surface meltwater lake that develops in the summer, freezes-over in winter, resulting in the lake-bottom debris being masked by a high-albedo, superimposed, ice surface. If this ice surface fails to melt during a subsequent melt season, it experiences reduced surface ablation relative to the surrounding debris-covered areas of the ice shelf. We propose that this differential ablation, and resultant hydrostatic and flexural readjustments of the ice shelf, causes the former supraglacial lake surface to become increasingly pedestalled above the lower topography of the surrounding ice shelf. Consequently, meltwater streams cannot flow onto these pedestalled features, and instead divert around them. We suggest that the development of pedestals has a significant influence on the surface-energy balance, hydrology and flexure of the ice shelf.
In our comments, we re-evaluate Brugger and others (2018) Lycopodium/Eucalyptus double marker approach, based on the fact that previous evidence already demonstrated that the batch of Eucalyptus tablets used by Brugger and others (2018) is not suitable for quantitative comparisons as they are characterized by inconsistent pollen concentration. We present clear evidence that the Eucalyptus tablets do feature inaccurate pollen concentrations, and are therefore improper for all quantitative comparisons of microfossil extraction methods. Consequently, the results of the quantitative and qualitative assessment of different pollen extraction methods from ice samples compiled by Brugger and others (2018) are highly questionable due to the use of faulty marker tablets.