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Parameterizing deep water percolation improves subsurface temperature simulations by a multilayer firn model
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences, LUVAL. Department of Geophysics, The University Centre in Svalbard, Longyearbyen, Norway. (Ice and Climate)
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences, LUVAL. (Ice and Climate)
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences, LUVAL.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences, LUVAL.
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2017 (English)In: Frontiers in Earth Science, ISSN 1096-231X, E-ISSN 1664-8021, Vol. 5, no 16Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Deep preferential percolation of melt water in snow and firn brings water lower along the vertical profile than a laterally homogeneous wetting front. This widely recognized process is an important source of uncertainty in simulations of subsurface temperature, density, and water content in seasonal snow and in firn packs on glaciers and ice sheets. However, observation and quantification of preferential flow is challenging and therefore it is not accounted for by most of the contemporary snow/firn models. Here we use temperature measurements in the accumulation zone of Lomonosovfonna, Svalbard, done in April 2012-2015 using multiple thermistor strings to describe the process of water percolation in snow and firn. Effects of water flow through the snow and firn profile are further explored using a coupled surface energy balance - firn model forced by the output of the regional climate model WRF. In situ air temperature, radiation, and surface height change measurements are used to constrain the surface energy and mass fluxes. To account for the effects of preferential water flow in snow and firn we test a set of depth-dependent functions allocating a certain fraction of the melt water available at the surface to each snow/firn layer. Experiments are performed for a range of characteristic percolation depths and results indicate a reduction in root mean square difference between the modeled and measured temperature by up to a factor of two compared to the results from the default water infiltration scheme. This illustrates the significance of accounting for preferential water percolation to simulate subsurface conditions. The suggested approach to parameterization of the preferential water flow requires low additional computational cost and can be implemented in layered snow/ firn models applied both at local and regional scales, for distributed domains with multiple mesh points.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. Vol. 5, no 16
Keywords [en]
firn, firn modeling, preferential flow, internal accumulation, Lomonosovfonna, Svalbard, firn water content
National Category
Physical Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-321136DOI: 10.3389/feart.2017.00016ISI: 000395736600001OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-321136DiVA, id: diva2:1092236
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 621-2014-3735Available from: 2017-05-02 Created: 2017-05-02 Last updated: 2018-01-13Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Subsurface fluxes of mass and energy at the accumulation zone of Lomonosovfonna ice cap, Svalbard
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Subsurface fluxes of mass and energy at the accumulation zone of Lomonosovfonna ice cap, Svalbard
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Glaciers cover ca 10% of the Earth's land and are found in the high altitudes and latitudes. They are important components of environmental systems due to the multiple feedbacks linking them with the atmosphere, hydrosphere and periglacial landscapes. The cold sloping surfaces of glaciers change the patterns of atmospheric circulation at different scales and at the same time glaciers are largely controlled by climate. They are commonly used as climatic archives for reconstruction of the past environmental changes based on evidences from the areas affected by glaciation at the moment and in the past. Glaciers are the largest fresh-water reservoirs on our planet and runoff thereof significantly affects the global sea level and life in glaciated catchments. However, melt- and rain-induced runoff from glaciers greatly depends on the subsurface conditions which thus need to be taken into account, particularly in a changing climate.

This thesis focuses on the processes of subsurface mass and energy exchange in the accumulation zones of glaciers, which are largely driven by the climate at the surface. Results are largely based on empirical data from Lomonosovfonna ice cap, Svalbard, collected during field campaigns in 2012-2017. Observations of subsurface density and stratigraphy using shallow cores, video records from boreholes and radar surveys returned detailed descriptions of the snow and firn layering. The subsurface temperature data collected using multiple thermistor strings provided insights into several subsurface processes. The temperature values measured during three summer seasons were used to constrain the suggested parameterization of deep preferential water flow through snow and firn. The part of data recorded during the cold seasons was employed for an inverse modelling exercise resulting in optimized values of effective thermal conductivity of the subsurface profile. These results are then used to compute the subsurface water content by comparing the simulated and measured rates of freezing front propagation after the melt season in 2014.

The field observations and quantitative estimates provide further empirical evidences of preferential water flow in snow/firn packs at glaciers. Results presented in the thesis call for implementation of description of the process in layered models simulating the subsurface fluxes of energy and mass at glaciers. This will result in a better understanding of glacier response to the past and future climatic changes and more accurate estimates of glacier runoff.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2018. p. 52
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 1601
Keywords
glacier, ice sheet, sea level, runoff, ice, firn, snow, stratigraphy, density, core, radar, thermistor, temperature, preferential water flow, thermal conductivity, water content
National Category
Physical Geography
Research subject
Earth Science with specialization in Physical Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-334178 (URN)978-91-513-0158-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-01-19, GM128 Axel Hambergsalen, Villavägen 16, Uppsala, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Projects
Stability and Variations of Arctic Land Ice (SVALI)
Available from: 2017-12-13 Created: 2017-11-21 Last updated: 2018-03-08

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