Measurements and modeling of snow albedo at Alerce Glacier, Argentina: effects of volcanic ash, snow grain size, and cloudiness

Gelman Constantin, Julián; Ruiz, Lucas; Villarosa, Gustavo; Outes, Valeria; Bajano, Facundo N.; He, Cenlin; Bajano, Hector; Dawidowski, Laura

The impact of volcanic ash on seasonal snow and glacier mass balance has been much less studied than that of carbonaceous particles and mineral dust. We present here the first field measurements on the Argentinian Andes, combined with snow albedo and glacier mass balance modeling. Measured impurity content (1.1 inline-formulamg kg−1 to 30 000 inline-formulamg kg−1) varied abruptly in snow pits and snow and firn cores, due to high surface enrichment during the ablation season and possibly local or regional wind-driven resuspension and redeposition of dust and volcanic ash. In addition, we observed high spatial heterogeneity, due to glacier topography and the prevailing wind direction. Microscopic characterization showed that the major component was ash from recent Calbuco (2015) and Cordón Caulle (2011) volcanic eruptions, with a minor presence of mineral dust and black carbon. We also found a wide range of measured snow albedo (0.26 to 0.81), which reflected mainly the impurity content and the snow and firn grain size (due to aging). We updated the SNow, ICe, and Aerosol Radiation (SNICAR) albedo model to account for the effect of cloudiness on incident radiation spectra, improving the match of modeled and measured values. We also ran sensitivity studies considering the uncertainty in the main measured parameters (impurity content and composition, snow grain size, layer thickness, etc.) to identify the field measurements that should be improved to facilitate the validation of the snow albedo model. Finally, we studied the impact of these albedo reductions on Alerce Glacier using a spatially distributed surface mass balance model. We found a large impact of albedo changes on glacier mass balance, and we estimated that the effect of observed ash concentrations can be as high as a 1.25 m water equivalent decrease in the annual surface mass balance (due to a 34 % increase in the melt during the ablation season).

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Gelman Constantin, Julián / Ruiz, Lucas / Villarosa, Gustavo / et al: Measurements and modeling of snow albedo at Alerce Glacier, Argentina: effects of volcanic ash, snow grain size, and cloudiness. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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