Articles | Volume 5, issue 4
The Cryosphere, 5, 977–988, 2011

Special issue: Modeling the spatial dynamics of permafrost and seasonally...

The Cryosphere, 5, 977–988, 2011

Research article 10 Nov 2011

Research article | 10 Nov 2011

Temperature variability and offset in steep alpine rock and ice faces

A. Hasler, S. Gruber, and W. Haeberli A. Hasler et al.
  • Glaciology, Geomorphodynamics and Geochronology, Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Abstract. The thermal condition of high-alpine mountain flanks can be an important determinant of climate change impact on slope stability and correspondingly down-slope hazard regimes. In this study we analyze time-series from 17 shallow temperature-depth profiles at two field sites in steep bedrock and ice. Extending earlier studies that revealed the topographic variations in temperatures, we demonstrate considerable differences of annual mean temperatures for variable surface characteristics and depths within the measured profiles. This implies that measurements and model related to compact and near-vertical bedrock temperatures may deviate considerably from conditions in the majority of bedrock slopes in mountain ranges that are usually non-vertical and fractured. For radiation-exposed faces mean annual temperatures at depth are up to 3 °C lower and permafrost is likely to exist at lower elevations than reflected by estimates based on near-vertical homogeneous cases. Retention of a thin snow cover and ventilation effects in open clefts are most likely responsible for this cooling. The measurements presented or similar data could be used in the future to support the development and testing of models related to the thermal effect of snow-cover and fractures in steep bedrock.