Cloud effects on surface energy and mass balance in the ablation area of Brewster Glacier, New Zealand
- 1Department of Geography, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
- 2Centre for Hydrology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada
Abstract. The effect of clouds on glacier surface energy balance (SEB) has received increased attention in the last decade, but how clouds interact with other meteorological forcing to influence surface mass balance (SMB) is not as well understood. This paper resolves the SEB and SMB at a site in the ablation zone of Brewster Glacier over a 22-month period, using high-quality radiation data to carefully evaluate SEB terms and define clear-sky and overcast conditions. A fundamental change in glacier SEB in cloudy conditions was driven by increased effective sky emissivity and surface vapour pressure, rather than a minimal change in air temperature and wind speed. During overcast conditions, positive net long-wave radiation and latent heat fluxes allowed melt to be maintained through a much greater length of time compared to clear-sky conditions, and led to similar melt in each sky condition. The sensitivity of SMB to changes in air temperature was greatly enhanced in overcast compared to clear-sky conditions due to more frequent melt and changes in precipitation phase that created a strong albedo feedback. During the spring and autumn seasons, the sensitivity during overcast conditions was strongest. To capture these processes, future attempts to explore glacier–climate interactions should aim to resolve the effects of atmospheric moisture (vapour, cloud, and precipitation) on melt as well as accumulation, through enhanced statistical or physically based methods.