Journal cover Journal topic
The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
The Cryosphere, 8, 2063-2074, 2014
© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
14 Nov 2014
A statistical approach to represent small-scale variability of permafrost temperatures due to snow cover
K. Gisnås1, S. Westermann1,2, T. V. Schuler1, T. Litherland1, K. Isaksen3, J. Boike4, and B. Etzelmüller1 1Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
2Center for Permafrost, Department of Geography and Geology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
3Norwegian Meteorological Institute, Oslo, Norway
4Alfred Wegener Institute, Potsdam, Germany
Abstract. In permafrost environments exposed to strong winds, drifting snow can create a small-scale pattern of strongly variable snow heights, which has profound implications for the thermal regime of the ground. Arrays of 26 to more than 100 temperature loggers were installed to record the distribution of ground surface temperatures within three study areas across a climatic gradient from continuous to sporadic permafrost in Norway. A variability of the mean annual ground surface temperature of up to 6°C was documented within areas of 0.5 km2. The observed variation can, to a large degree, be explained by variation in snow height. Permafrost models, employing averages of snow height for grid cells of, e.g., 1 km2, are not capable of representing such sub-grid variability. We propose a statistical representation of the sub-grid variability of ground surface temperatures and demonstrate that a simple equilibrium permafrost model can reproduce the temperature distribution within a grid cell based on the distribution of snow heights.

Citation: Gisnås, K., Westermann, S., Schuler, T. V., Litherland, T., Isaksen, K., Boike, J., and Etzelmüller, B.: A statistical approach to represent small-scale variability of permafrost temperatures due to snow cover, The Cryosphere, 8, 2063-2074,, 2014.
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