Articles | Volume 5, issue 3
Special issue:
Research article
11 Aug 2011
Research article |  | 11 Aug 2011

Linkage of cave-ice changes to weather patterns inside and outside the cave Eisriesenwelt (Tennengebirge, Austria)

W. Schöner, G. Weyss, and E. Mursch-Radlgruber

Abstract. The behaviour of perennial ice masses in karst caves in relation to the outside climate is still not well understood, though a significant potential of the cave-ice for paleo-climate reconstructions could be expected. This study investigates the relationship between weather patterns inside and outside the cave Eisriesenwelt (Austrian Alps) and ice-surface changes of the ice-covered part of the cave from meteorological observations at three sites (outside the cave, entrance-near inside and in the middle section of the cave) including atmospheric and ice surface measurements as well as an ablation stake network. Whereas ice loss in summer was a general feature from stake measurements for almost all measurement sites in the cave in 2007, 2008 and 2009 (values up to −15 cm yr−1), a clear seasonal signal of ice accumulation (e.g. in spring as expected from theory) was not observed. It is shown that under recent climate the cave ice mass balance is more sensitive to winter climate for the inner measurement site and sensitive to winter and summer climate for the entrance-near site. Observed ice surface changes can be well explained by cave atmosphere measurements, indicating a clear annual cycle with weak mass loss in winter due to sublimation, stable ice conditions in spring until summer (autumn for the inner measurement site) and significant melt in late summer to autumn (for the entrance-near site). Interestingly, surface ice melt did not contribute to ablation at the inner site. It is obvious from the spatial sample of ice surface height observations that the ice body is currently in rather balanced state, though the influence of show-cave management on ice mass-balance could not be clearly quantified (but a significant input on accumulation for some parts of the cave is rather plausible).

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