Spatio-temporal variation in microclimate, the surface energy balance and ablation over a cirque glacier

D M Hannah, A M Gurnell, G R McGregor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Climatic processes, operating at a range of scales, drive energy fluxes at the glacier surface which control meltwater generation and ultimately runoff. Nevertheless, to date, most glacier microclimate research has been both temporally (short-term) and spatially (single station) restricted. This paper addresses this knowledge gap by reporting on a detailed, empirical study which characterizes spatio-temporal variations in and linkages between glacier microclimate, surface energy and mass exchanges within a small glacierized cirque (Taillon Glacier, French Pyrenees) over two melt seasons. Data collected at five automatic weather stations (AWSs) and over ablation stake networks suggest that topoclimates, altitude and transient snowline position primarily determine the distribution of glacier energy receipt and, in turn, snow- and ice-melt patterns. Generally net radiation is the dominant energy source, followed by sensible heat, while latent heat is an energy sink. However, the magnitude and partitioning of energy balance terms, and consequently ablation, vary across the glacier both seasonally and with prevailing weather conditions. Importantly, this paper demonstrates that such monitoring programmes are required to truly represent and provide a sound basis for modelling glacier energy and mass-balances in both space and time. Copyright (C) 2000 Royal Meteorological Society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)733-758
Number of pages26
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2000


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