Surface energy balance and melt thresholds over 11 years at Taylor Glacier, Antarctica

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TitleSurface energy balance and melt thresholds over 11 years at Taylor Glacier, Antarctica
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsHoffman, MJ, Fountain, AG, Liston, GE
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Date Published01/2008

In the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Victoria Land, Antarctica, melting of glacial ice is the primary source of water to streams, lakes, and associated ecosystems. To understand geochemical fluxes and ecological responses to past and future climates requires a physically based energy balance model. We applied a one-dimensional model to one site on Taylor Glacier using 11 years of daily meteorological data and seasonal ablation measurements. Inclusion of transmission of solar radiation into the ice was necessary to accurately model summer ablation and ice temperatures. Results showed good correspondence between calculated and measured ablation and ice temperatures over the 11 years. Ablation (∼18 cm a−1) was dominated by sublimation with very few occurrences of melt (42 days during 11 years). Results also indicated that above freezing air temperatures did not necessarily result in melt and, in turn, melt occurred during subfreezing air temperatures under some conditions. For air temperatures near freezing, low wind speed was critically important for melt initiation. According to the model, subsurface melt, away from rocks and sediment in the ice, occurred three times more frequently than surface melt; occurs no deeper than 50 cm below the glacier surface; and was small, never exceeding 8% by mass. The magnitude of subsurface melting and the energy balance indicate that Taylor Glacier ice is intermediate in optical properties between snow and blue ice.

Short TitleJ. Geophys. Res.