Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2021-114
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2021-114

  26 May 2021

26 May 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

Long-term energy balance measurements at three different mountain permafrost sites in the Swiss Alps

Martin Hoelzle1, Christian Hauck1, Tamara Mathys1, Jeannette Noetzli2, Cécile Pellet1, and Martin Scherler1 Martin Hoelzle et al.
  • 1Department of Geosciences, University of Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland
  • 2WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, Davos, Switzerland

Abstract. The surface energy balance is a key factor influencing the ground thermal regime. With ongoing climate change, it is crucial to understand the interactions of the individual heat fluxes at the surface and within the subsurface layers as well as their relative impacts on permafrost thermal regime. A unique set of high-altitude meteorological measurements has been analysed to determine the energy balance at three mountain permafrost sites in the Swiss Alps (Murtèl-Corvatsch, Schilthorn and Stockhorn), where data is being collected since the late 1990s in collaboration with the Swiss Permafrost Monitoring Network (PERMOS). All stations are equipped with sensors for four-component radiation, air temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction as well as ground temperatures and snow height. The three sites differ considerably in their surface and ground material composition as well as their ground ice contents. The energy fluxes are calculated based on two decades of field measurements. While the determination of the radiation budget and the ground heat flux is comparatively straightforward (by the four-component radiation sensor and thermistor measurements within the boreholes), larger uncertainties exist for the determination of turbulent sensible and latent heat fluxes.

Our results show that mean air temperature at Murtèl-Corvatsch (1997–2018, 2600 m asl.) is −1.66 °C and has increased by about 0.7 °C during the measurement period. At the Schilthorn site (1999–2018, 2900 m asl.) a mean air temperature of −2.60 °C with a mean increase of 1.0 °C was measured. The Stockhorn site (2003–2018, 3400 m asl.) recorded lower air temperatures with a mean of −6.18 °C and an increase of 0.7 °C. Measured net radiation, as the most important energy input at the surface, shows substantial differences with mean values of 30.59 W m−2 for Murtèl-Corvatsch, 32.40 W m−2 for Schilthorn and 6.91 W m−2 for Stockhorn. The calculated turbulent fluxes show values of around 7 to 13 W m−2 using the Bowen ratio method and 3 to 15 W m−2 using the bulk method at all sites. Large differences are observed regarding the energy used for melting of the snow cover: at Schilthorn a value of 8.46 W m−2, at Murtèl-Corvatsch of 4.17 W m−2 and at Stockhorn of 2.26 W m−2 is calculated reflecting the differences in snow height at the three sites.

In general, we found considerable differences in the energy fluxes at the different sites. These differences may help to explain and interpret the causes of the varying reactions of the permafrost thermal regime at the three sites to a warming atmosphere. We recognize a strong relation between the net radiation and the ground heat flux. Our results further demonstrate the importance of long-term monitoring in order to better understand the impacts of changes in the surface energy balance components on the permafrost thermal regime. The dataset presented can be used to improve permafrost modelling studies aiming at e.g. advancing knowledge about permafrost thaw processes. The data presented and described in this study is available for download at the following site http://dx.doi.org/10.13093/permos-meteo-2021-01 (Hoelzle et al., 2021).

Martin Hoelzle et al.

Status: open (until 13 Oct 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on essd-2021-114', Anonymous Referee #1, 27 Jul 2021 reply

Martin Hoelzle et al.

Data sets

P E R M O S M e t e o D a t a 2 0 2 1 Hoelzle Martin, Hauck Christian, Mathys Tamara, Noetzli Jeannette, Pellet Cécile, Scherler Martin http://www.permos.ch/doi/permos-meteo-2021-01.html

Martin Hoelzle et al.

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Short summary
With ongoing climate change, it is crucial to understand the interactions of the individual heat fluxes at the surface and within the subsurface layers as well as their relative impacts on permafrost thermal regime. A unique set of high-altitude meteorological measurements has been analysed to determine the energy balance at three mountain permafrost sites in the Swiss Alps, where data is being collected since the late 1990s in collaboration with the Swiss Permafrost Monitoring Network (PERMOS).