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The Influence of Air Temperature Inversions on Snowmelt and Glacier Mass Balance Simulations, Ammassalik Island, Southeast Greenland

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  • 1 International Arctic Research Center, and Water and Environmental Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska
  • | 2 Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado
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Abstract

In many applications, a realistic description of air temperature inversions is essential for accurate snow and glacier ice melt, and glacier mass-balance simulations. A physically based snow evolution modeling system (SnowModel) was used to simulate 8 yr (1998/99–2005/06) of snow accumulation and snow and glacier ice ablation from numerous small coastal marginal glaciers on the SW part of Ammassalik Island in SE Greenland. These glaciers are regularly influenced by inversions and sea breezes associated with the adjacent relatively low temperature and frequently ice-choked fjords and ocean. To account for the influence of these inversions on the spatiotemporal variation of air temperature and snow and glacier melt rates, temperature inversion routines were added to MircoMet, the meteorological distribution submodel used in SnowModel. The inversions were observed and modeled to occur during 84% of the simulation period. Modeled inversions were defined not to occur during days with strong winds and high precipitation rates because of the potential of inversion breakup. Field observations showed inversions to extend from sea level to approximately 300 m MSL, and this inversion level was prescribed in the model simulations. Simulations with and without the inversion routines were compared. The inversion model produced air temperature distributions with warmer lower-elevation areas and cooler higher-elevation areas than without inversion routines because of the use of cold sea-breeze-based temperature data from underneath the inversion. This yielded an up to 2 weeks earlier snowmelt in the lower areas and up to 1–3 weeks later snowmelt in the higher-elevation areas of the simulation domain. Averaged mean annual modeled surface mass balance for all glaciers (mainly located above the inversion layer) was −720 ± 620 mm w.eq. yr−1 (w.eq. is water equivalent) for inversion simulations, and −880 ± 620 mm w.eq. yr−1 without the inversion routines, a difference of 160 mm w.eq. yr−1. The annual glacier loss for the two simulations was 50.7 × 106 and 64.4 × 106 m3 yr−1 for all glaciers—a difference of ∼21%. The average equilibrium line altitude (ELA) for all glaciers in the simulation domain was located at 875 and 900 m MSL for simulations with or without inversion routines, respectively.

* Current affiliation: Computational Physics and Methods Group (CCS-2), Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Sebastian H. Mernild, Climate, Ocean, and Sea Ice Modeling Group, Computational Physics and Methods (CCS-2), Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM 87545. Email: mernild@lanl.gov

Abstract

In many applications, a realistic description of air temperature inversions is essential for accurate snow and glacier ice melt, and glacier mass-balance simulations. A physically based snow evolution modeling system (SnowModel) was used to simulate 8 yr (1998/99–2005/06) of snow accumulation and snow and glacier ice ablation from numerous small coastal marginal glaciers on the SW part of Ammassalik Island in SE Greenland. These glaciers are regularly influenced by inversions and sea breezes associated with the adjacent relatively low temperature and frequently ice-choked fjords and ocean. To account for the influence of these inversions on the spatiotemporal variation of air temperature and snow and glacier melt rates, temperature inversion routines were added to MircoMet, the meteorological distribution submodel used in SnowModel. The inversions were observed and modeled to occur during 84% of the simulation period. Modeled inversions were defined not to occur during days with strong winds and high precipitation rates because of the potential of inversion breakup. Field observations showed inversions to extend from sea level to approximately 300 m MSL, and this inversion level was prescribed in the model simulations. Simulations with and without the inversion routines were compared. The inversion model produced air temperature distributions with warmer lower-elevation areas and cooler higher-elevation areas than without inversion routines because of the use of cold sea-breeze-based temperature data from underneath the inversion. This yielded an up to 2 weeks earlier snowmelt in the lower areas and up to 1–3 weeks later snowmelt in the higher-elevation areas of the simulation domain. Averaged mean annual modeled surface mass balance for all glaciers (mainly located above the inversion layer) was −720 ± 620 mm w.eq. yr−1 (w.eq. is water equivalent) for inversion simulations, and −880 ± 620 mm w.eq. yr−1 without the inversion routines, a difference of 160 mm w.eq. yr−1. The annual glacier loss for the two simulations was 50.7 × 106 and 64.4 × 106 m3 yr−1 for all glaciers—a difference of ∼21%. The average equilibrium line altitude (ELA) for all glaciers in the simulation domain was located at 875 and 900 m MSL for simulations with or without inversion routines, respectively.

* Current affiliation: Computational Physics and Methods Group (CCS-2), Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Sebastian H. Mernild, Climate, Ocean, and Sea Ice Modeling Group, Computational Physics and Methods (CCS-2), Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM 87545. Email: mernild@lanl.gov

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