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Albedo variations and the impact of clouds on glaciers in the Chilean semi-arid Andes

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Albedo variations are presented at two on-glacier sites in the semi-arid Andes, Chile, with >3 years of continuous measurements. Although <2 km apart and at similar elevations, the sites show significantly different albedo cycles. Whereas Toro 1 exhibits a clear seasonal cycle, Guanaco reveals a more complicated pattern, as exposed ice can occur in any month of the year. Daily albedo values are as low as 0.18 for debris-covered Toro 1, while minima are higher on Guanaco (0.38). A method is presented to discern cloud-free from cloudy conditions using measured incoming shortwave radiation only. A cloud climatology is provided showing very low cloudiness values. We see that effective cloud cover relates inversely to cloud occurrence (i.e. either more but thin or fewer but thick clouds). The cloud-free diurnal albedo cycle is pronounced, with lowest values around noon. Clouds increase albedo by 0.04 as a median hourly value, and 0.20 for the 95% quantile. There is a positive relationship between effective cloud cover and resulting albedo rise. Calculations as to whether the diurnal albedo cycle or the effect of clouds on albedo should be considered in energy-balance estimations show that the former is necessary whereas the latter can be neglected in the semi-arid Andes.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: February 1, 2014

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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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