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Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 10, 53-60, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-10-53-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
 
10 Jan 2018
Modulation of glacier ablation by tephra coverage from Eyjafjallajökull and Grímsvötn volcanoes, Iceland: an automated field experiment
Rebecca Möller1,2, Marco Möller3,4,1, Peter A. Kukla2, and Christoph Schneider4 1Department of Geography, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany
2Geological Institute, Energy and Minerals Resources Group, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany
3Institute of Geography, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany
4Geography Department, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Abstract. We report results from a field experiment investigating the influence of volcanic tephra coverage on glacier ablation. These influences are known to be significantly different from those of moraine debris on glaciers due to the contrasting grain size distribution and thermal conductivity. Thus far, the influences of tephra deposits on glacier ablation have rarely been studied. For the experiment, artificial plots of two different tephra types from Eyjafjallajökull and Grímsvötn volcanoes were installed on a snow-covered glacier surface of Vatnajökull ice cap, Iceland. Snow-surface lowering and atmospheric conditions were monitored in summer 2015 and compared to a tephra-free reference site. For each of the two volcanic tephra types, three plots of variable thickness ( ∼  1.5,  ∼  8.5 and  ∼  80 mm) were monitored. After limiting the records to a period of reliable measurements, a 50-day data set of hourly records was obtained, which can be downloaded from the Pangaea data repository (https://www.pangaea.de; doi:10.1594/PANGAEA.876656). The experiment shows a substantial increase in snow-surface lowering rates under the  ∼  1.5 and  ∼  8.5 mm tephra plots when compared to uncovered conditions. Under the thick tephra cover some insulating effects could be observed. These results are in contrast to other studies which depicted insulating effects for much thinner tephra coverage on bare-ice glacier surfaces. Differences between the influences of the two different petrological types of tephra exist but are negligible compared to the effect of tephra coverage overall.

Citation: Möller, R., Möller, M., Kukla, P. A., and Schneider, C.: Modulation of glacier ablation by tephra coverage from Eyjafjallajökull and Grímsvötn volcanoes, Iceland: an automated field experiment, Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 10, 53-60, https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-10-53-2018, 2018.
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Short summary
Deposits of volcanic tephra alter the energy balance at the surface of a glacier. The effects reach from intensified melt to complete insulation, mainly depending on tephra thickness. Data from a field experiment on Iceland reveal an additional minor dependency on tephra type and suggest a substantially different behavior of tephra-covered snowpacks than of tephra-covered glacier ice. The related 50-day dataset of hourly records can readily be used for model calibration and validation purposes.
Deposits of volcanic tephra alter the energy balance at the surface of a glacier. The effects...
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