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Self-similarity in glacier surface characteristics

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Catchment-wide information on glacier snow-cover depth, surface albedo and surface roughness is important input data for distributed models of glacier energy balance. In this study, we investigate the small-scale (mm to 100 m) spatial variability in these properties, with a view to better simulating this variability in such models. Data were collected on midre LoveĀ¤nbreen, a 6 km2valley glacier in northwest Svalbard. The spatial variability of all three properties was found to be self-similar over the range of scales under investigation. Snow depth and albedo exhibit a correlation length within which measurements were spatially autocorrelated. Late-winter and summer properties of snow depth differed, with smaller depths in summer due to melt, and shorter correlation lengths. Similar correlation lengths for snow depth and surface albedo may suggest that snow-depth variation is an important control on the small-scale spatial variability of glacier surface albedo. For surface roughness, the data highlight a possible problem in energy-balance studies which use microtopographic surveys to calculate aerodynamic roughness, in that the scale of the measurements made affects the calculated roughness value. This suggests that further investigations of the relationships between surface form and aerodynamic roughness of glacier surfaces are needed.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2003

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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