Articles | Volume 5, issue 1
The Cryosphere, 5, 245–257, 2011
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-5-245-2011

Special issue: Ice Caves

The Cryosphere, 5, 245–257, 2011
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-5-245-2011

Research article 23 Mar 2011

Research article | 23 Mar 2011

The mass and energy balance of ice within the Eisriesenwelt cave, Austria

F. Obleitner1 and C. Spötl2 F. Obleitner and C. Spötl
  • 1Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics, Innsbruck University, Austria
  • 2Institute of Geology and Paleontology, Innsbruck University, Austria

Abstract. Meteorological measurements were performed in a prominent ice cave (Eisriesenwelt, Austria) during a full annual cycle. The data show the basic features of a dynamically ventilated cave system with a well distinguished winter and summer regime.

The calculated energy balance of the cave ice is largely determined by the input of long-wave radiation originating at the host rock surface. On average the turbulent fluxes withdraw energy from the surface. This is more pronounced during winter due to enhanced circulation and lower humidity. During summer the driving gradients reverse sign and the associated fluxes provide energy for melt.

About 4 cm of ice were lost at the measurement site during a reference year. This was due to some sublimation during winter, while the major loss resulted from melt during summer. Small amounts of accumulation occurred during spring due to refreezing of seepage water.

These results are largely based on employing a numerical mass and energy balance model. Sensitivity studies prove reliability of the calculated energy balance regarding diverse measurement uncertainties and show that the annual mass balance of the ice strongly depends on cave air temperature during summer and the availability of seepage water in spring.

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