Thermal conductivity of firn at Lomonosovfonna, Svalbard, derived from subsurface temperature measurements
Accurate description of snow and firn processes is necessary for estimating the fraction of glacier surface melt that contributes to runoff. Most processes in snow and firn are to a great extent controlled by the temperature therein and in the absence of liquid water, the temperature evolution is dominated by the conductive heat exchange. The latter is controlled by the effective thermal conductivity k. Here we reconstruct the effective thermal conductivity of firn at Lomonosovfonna, Svalbard, using an optimization routine minimizing the misfit between simulated and measured subsurface temperatures and densities. The optimized k* values in the range from 0.2 to 1.6 W (m K)−1 increase downwards and over time. The results are supported by uncertainty quantification experiments, according to which k* is most sensitive to systematic errors in empirical temperature values and their estimated depths, particularly in the lower part of the vertical profile. Compared to commonly used density-based parameterizations, our k values are consistently larger, suggesting a faster conductive heat exchange in firn.