05 Apr 2022
05 Apr 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Multi-annual temperature evolution and implications for cave ice development in a sag-type ice cave in the Austrian Alps

Maria Wind1,2, Friedrich Obleitner1, Tanguy Racine2, and Christoph Spötl2 Maria Wind et al.
  • 1Department of Atmospheric and Cryospheric Sciences, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, 6020, Austria
  • 2Institute of Geology, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, 6020, Austria

Abstract. Ice caves are, similar to mountain glaciers, threatened by the warming climate. To better understand the response of perennial ice in caves to a changing climate, we analysed the thermal characteristics of a sag-type ice cave in the Austrian Alps (Hundsalm ice cave), based on long-term temperature measurements for the period 2008–2021. Observations show a warming trend in all parts of the cave as well as a distinct seasonal pattern with two main regimes, i.e., an open (winter) and a closed (summer) period. During the closed period, a persistent stable stratification prevails that largely decouples the cave from the external atmosphere. The open period is characterised by unstable to neutral stratification and allows episodic penetrations of cold air from outside into the cave interior. Vertical temperature profiles also provide hints on corresponding circulation patterns and the spatial temperature variability in the cave. The positive air temperature trend is reflected in a decrease in perennial cave ice, derived from stake measurements. Besides surface melting, we find compelling evidence of basal melting of ice. The observed ablation rates can be well reproduced by applying a modified degree-day model, which, however, is less feasible regarding mass balance. Overall, we conclude that Hundsalm ice cave is highly impacted by regional warming which will lead to the disappearance of its perennial ice deposits within the next decades.

Maria Wind et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2022-67', Anonymous Referee #1, 29 Apr 2022
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Maria Wind, 20 Jun 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2022-67', Aurel Perşoiu, 07 Jun 2022
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Maria Wind, 20 Jun 2022

Maria Wind et al.

Maria Wind et al.


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Short summary
We present a thorough analysis of the thermal conditions of a sag-type ice cave in the Austrian Alps using temperature measurements for the period 2008–2021. Apart from a long-term increasing temperature trend, we find strong inter-annual and spatial variations as well as a characteristic seasonal pattern. Increasing temperatures further led to a drastic decrease of cave ice. A first attempt to model ablation based on temperature shows promising results.