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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  09 Mar 2020

09 Mar 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

The surface energy balance in a cold-arid permafrost environment, Ladakh Himalaya, India

John Mohd Wani1, Renoj J. Thayyen2, Chandra Shekhar Prasad Ojha1, and Stephan Gruber3 John Mohd Wani et al.
  • 1Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee, India
  • 2Water Resources System Division, National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee, India
  • 3Department of Geography & Environmental Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada

Abstract. Cryosphere of the cold-arid trans-Himalayan region is unique with its significant permafrost cover. While the information on the permafrost characteristics and its extent started emerging, the governing energy regimes of this cryosphere region is of particular interest. This paper present the results of Surface Energy Balance (SEB) studies carried out in the upper Ganglass catchment in the Ladakh region of India, which feed directly to the River Indus. The point SEB is estimated using the one-dimensional mode of GEOtop model from 1 September 2015 to 31 August 2017 at 4727 m a.s.l elevation. The model is evaluated using field monitored radiation components, snow depth variations and one-year near-surface ground temperatures and showed good agreement with the respective simulated values. The study site has an air temperature range of −23.7 to 18.1 °C with a mean annual average temperature (MAAT) of −2.5 and ground surface temperature range of −9.8 to 19.1 °C. For the study period, the surface energy balance characteristics of the cold-arid site show that the net radiation was the major component with mean value of 28.9 W m−2 followed by sensible heat flux (13.5 W m−2) and latent heat flux (12.8 W m−2), and the ground heat flux was equal to 0.4 W m−2. The partitioning of energy balance during the study period shows that 47 % of Rn was converted into H, 44 % into LE, 1 % into G and 7 % for melting of seasonal snow. Both the study years experienced distinctly different, low and high snow regime. Key differences due to this snow regime change in surface energy balance characteristics were observed during peak summer (July–August). The latent heat flux was higher (lower) during this period with 39 W m−2 (11 W m−2) during high (low) snow years. The study also shows that the sensible heat flux during the early summer season (May, June) of the high (low) snow was much smaller (higher) −3.4 W m−2 (36.1 W m−2). During the study period, snow cover builds up in the catchment initiated by the last week of December facilitating the ground cooling by almost three months (October to December) of sub-zero temperatures up to −20 °C providing a favourable environment for permafrost. It is observed that the Ladakh region have a very low relative humidity in the range of 43 % as compared to, e.g., ~ 70 % in the Alps facilitating lower incoming longwave radiation and strongly negative net longwave radiation averaging ~ −90 W m−2 compared to −40 W m−2 in the Alps. Hence, the high elevation cold-arid region land surfaces could be overall colder than the locations with more RH such as the Alps. Further, it is apprehended that high incoming shortwave radiation in the region may be facilitating enhanced cooling of wet valley bottom surfaces as a result of stronger evaporation.

John Mohd Wani et al.

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John Mohd Wani et al.

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Short summary
This study focus on the Surface Energy Balance (SEB) of cold arid permafrost environment of Ladakh Himalaya. The SEB partitioning show Rn was converted as 47% into H, 44% into LE, 1% into G and 7% for melting of seasonal snow. Low Relative humidity (43%) of this region could be playing a critical role in SEB regime and permafrost processes. Key difference of surface energy balance characteristics was observed between low and high snow years.
This study focus on the Surface Energy Balance (SEB) of cold arid permafrost environment of...