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THE EFFECT OF SYNOPTIC SCALE WEATHER SYSTEMS ON SUB-SURFACE SOIL TEMPERATURES IN A DIURNAL FROST ENVIRONMENT: PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS FROM SUB-ANTARCTIC MARION ISLAND

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ABSTRACT.

Marion Island in the South Indian Ocean has a maritime climate dominated by diurnal frost processes in the landscape. We test the hypothesis that synoptic time-scale measurements are essential in understanding the drivers of diurnal frost processes. Preliminary results from automated microclimate measurements in a polar desert habitat show that diurnal soil surface temperatures on Marion Island are influenced by a complex interaction of radiation balance, air mass circulation, cloud cover and snow. The passage of synoptic scale weather systems influences soil thermal characteristics through changes in dominance of the radiation budget. Soil frost on Marion appears to be dependent on clear skies, while synoptic weather systems affect the duration and intensity of soil frost processes and non-radiative heat fluxes. Air circulation patterns at Marion Island influence diurnal scale temperature fluctuations and its direct and indirect interactions with ecosystem processes. The data suggest that in a maritime sub-Antarctic environment the climatic drivers of soil frost occur at a finertemporal resolution than for seasonal and permafrost environments and needs to be measured at a diurnal time-scale to be meaningful.
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Keywords: Marion Island; ground temperature; soil frost; synoptic weather

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa 2: Department of Social and Economic Geography, University of Uppsala, Uppsala, Sweden

Publication date: 2009-12-01

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