02 Nov 2023
 | 02 Nov 2023
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Sublimation Measurements of Tundra and Taiga Snowpack in Alaska

Kelsey Spehlmann, Eugénie Euskirchen, and Svetlana Stuefer

Abstract. Snow sublimation plays a fundamental role in the winter water balance. To date, few studies have quantified sublimation in tundra and boreal forest snow by direct measurements. Continuous latent heat data collected with eddy covariance (EC) measurements from 2010 to 2021 were used to calculate snow sublimation at six locations in northern Alaska: three Arctic tundra sites at distinct topographical and vegetation communities in the Imnavait Creek watershed on the North Slope underlain by continuous permafrost and three lowland boreal forest/taiga sites of differing permafrost conditions and ecosystems in interior Alaska near Fairbanks. Mean surface sublimation rates range from 0.08–0.15 mm day-1 and 15–27 mm year-1 at the six sites, representing 20 % of the measured solid precipitation and 8–16 % of the cumulative annual water vapor flux to the atmosphere (evaporation plus sublimation). The mean daily sublimation rates of the lowland boreal forest sites are higher than those of the tundra sites, but the longer snow cover period of the tundra sites leads to greater mean annual sublimation rates. We examined the potential controls, drivers, and trends of the sublimation rates by using meteorological data collected in conjunction with EC measurements. This research offers results to better understand how site conditions affect sublimation rates and the winter hydrologic cycle. Our study contributes to the sparse literature on tundra and boreal sublimation measurements and finds comparable rates to sublimation estimates in other northern climates.

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Kelsey Spehlmann, Eugénie Euskirchen, and Svetlana Stuefer

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-2023-153', Steven Fassnacht, 27 Dec 2023
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Svetlana Stuefer, 25 Feb 2024
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2023-153', Anonymous Referee #2, 21 Jan 2024
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Svetlana Stuefer, 25 Feb 2024
Kelsey Spehlmann, Eugénie Euskirchen, and Svetlana Stuefer
Kelsey Spehlmann, Eugénie Euskirchen, and Svetlana Stuefer


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Short summary
Sublimation is the hidden portion of the water cycle where snow changes phase directly to water vapor, skipping the liquid state. Though sublimation is difficult to measure, especially in remote regions such as arctic and subarctic Alaska where this study took place, our measurements confirm that sublimation is a substantial component of the annual water cycle. Results from this research contribute to knowledge of how site conditions affect sublimation rates and the winter hydrologic cycle.