Spatial and temporal variability of meteorological variables at Haut Glacier d'Arolla (Switzerland) during the ablation season 2001: measurements and simulations

Ulrich Strasser, Javier Corripio, Francesca Pellicciotti, Paolo Burlando, Ben Brock, Martin Funk

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    71 Citations (Scopus)


    During the ablation period 2001 a glaciometeorological experiment was carried out on Haut Glacier d'Arolla, Switzerland. Five meteorological stations were installed on the glacier, and one permanent automatic weather station in the glacier foreland. The altitudes of the stations ranged between 2500 and 3000 m a.s.l., and they were in operation from end of May to beginning of September 2001. The spatial arrangement of the stations and temporal duration of the measurements generated a unique data set enabling the analysis of the spatial and temporal variability of the meteorological variables across an alpine glacier. All measurements were taken at a nominal height of 2 m, and hourly averages were derived for the analysis. The wind regime was dominated by the glacier wind (mean value 2.8 m s-1) but due to erosion by the synoptic gradient wind, occasionally the wind would blow up the valley. A slight decrease in mean 2 m air temperatures with altitude was found, however the 2 m air temperature gradient varied greatly and frequently changed its sign. Mean relative humidity was 71% and exhibited limited spatial variation. Mean incoming shortwave radiation and albedo both generally increased with elevation. The different components of shortwave radiation are quantified with a parameterization scheme. Resulting spatial variations are mainly due to horizon obstruction and reflections from surrounding slopes, i.e., topography. The effect of clouds accounts for a loss of 30% of the extraterrestrial flux. Albedos derived from a Landsat TM image of 30 July show remarkably constant values, in the range 0.49 to 0.50, across snow covered parts of the glacier, while albedo is highly spatially variable below the zone of continuous snow cover. These results are verified with ground measurements and compared with parameterized albedo. Mean longwave radiative fluxes decreased with elevation due to lower air temperatures and the effect of upper hemisphere slopes. It is shown through parameterization that this effect would even be more pronounced without the effect of clouds. Results are discussed with respect to a similar study which has been carried out on Pasterze Glacier (Austria). The presented algorithms for interpolating, parameterizing and simulating variables and parameters in alpine regions are integrated in the software package AMUNDSEN which is freely available to be adapted and further developed by the community.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)18
    Number of pages1
    JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
    Issue numberD3
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


    • Spatial and temporal variability
    • Glacier climate
    • Radiation modelling
    • Landsat TM
    • Albedo parameterization


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