Air temperature thresholds to evaluate snow melting at the surface of Alpine glaciers by T-index models: the case study of Forni Glacier (Italy)

A. Senese, M. Maugeri, E. Vuillermoz, C. Smiraglia, G. Diolaiuti
2014 The Cryosphere Discussions  
The glacier melt conditions (i.e.: null surface temperature and positive energy budget) can be assessed by analyzing meteorological and energy data acquired by a supraglacial Automatic Weather Station (AWS). In the case this latter is not present the assessment of actual melting conditions and the evaluation of the melt amount is difficult and simple methods based on T-index (or degree days) models are generally applied. These models require the choice of a correct temperature threshold. In
more » ... e threshold. In fact, melt does not necessarily occur at daily air temperatures higher than 273.15 K. <br><br> In this paper, to detect the most indicative threshold witnessing melt conditions in the April–June period, we have analyzed air temperature data recorded from 2006 to 2012 by a supraglacial AWS set up at 2631 m a.s.l. on the ablation tongue of the Forni Glacier (Italian Alps), and by a weather station located outside the studied glacier (at Bormio, a village at 1225 m a.s.l.). Moreover we have evaluated the glacier energy budget and the Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) values during this time-frame. Then the snow ablation amount was estimated both from the surface energy balance (from supraglacial AWS data) and from T-index method (from Bormio data, applying the mean tropospheric lapse rate and varying the air temperature threshold) and the results were compared. We found that the mean tropospheric lapse rate permits a good and reliable reconstruction of glacier air temperatures and the major uncertainty in the computation of snow melt is driven by the choice of an appropriate temperature threshold. From our study using a 5.0 K lower threshold value (with respect to the largely applied 273.15 K) permits the most reliable reconstruction of glacier melt.
doi:10.5194/tcd-8-1563-2014 fatcat:g7gwbkbpjzeipj2pz5t4betxma