Environmental controls on the thermal structure of alpine glaciers Department of Earth Sciences, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC, Canada
31 Jan 2013
Received: 21 Aug 2012 – Published in The Cryosphere Discuss.: 12 Sep 2012Abstract. Water entrapped in glacier accumulation zones represents a
significant latent heat contribution to the development of thermal structure.
It also provides a direct link between glacier environments and thermal
regimes. We apply a two-dimensional mechanically-coupled model of heat flow to
synthetic glacier geometries in order to explore the environmental controls on
flowband thermal structure. We use this model to test the sensitivity of
thermal structure to physical and environmental variables and to explore
glacier thermal response to environmental changes. In different conditions
consistent with a warming climate, mean glacier temperature and the volume of
temperate ice may either increase or decrease, depending on the competing
effects of elevated meltwater production, reduced accumulation zone extent and
thinning firn. For two model reference states that exhibit commonly-observed
thermal structures, the fraction of temperate ice is shown to decline with
warming air temperatures. Mass balance and aquifer sensitivities play an
important role in determining how the englacial thermal regimes of alpine
glaciers will adjust in the future.
Revised: 21 Dec 2012 – Accepted: 22 Dec 2012 – Published: 31 Jan 2013
Citation: Wilson, N. J. and Flowers, G. E.: Environmental controls on the thermal structure of alpine glaciers, The Cryosphere, 7, 167-182, doi:10.5194/tc-7-167-2013, 2013.