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Firn cold content evolution at nine sites on the Greenland ice sheet between 1998 and 2017
Vandecrux, B.; Fausto, R.S.; van As, D.; Colgan, W.; Langen, P.L.; Haubner, K.; Ingeman-Nielsen, T.; Heilig, A.; Stevens, C.M.; MacFerrin, M.; Niwano, M.; Steffen, K.; Box, J.E. (2020). Firn cold content evolution at nine sites on the Greenland ice sheet between 1998 and 2017. J. Glaciol. 66(258): 591-602.
In: Journal of Glaciology. International Glaciological Society: Cambridge. ISSN 0022-1430; e-ISSN 1727-5652, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

Author keywords
    Greenland ice sheet; Accumulation area; Surface energy balance; Polarfirn; Surface melt; Meltwater retention; Surface mass balance; Snow and firn processes

Authors  Top 
  • Vandecrux, B.
  • Fausto, R.S.
  • van As, D.
  • Colgan, W.
  • Langen, P.L.
  • Haubner, K., more
  • Ingeman-Nielsen, T.
  • Heilig, A.
  • Stevens, C.M.
  • MacFerrin, M.
  • Niwano, M.
  • Steffen, K.
  • Box, J.E.

    Current sea-level rise partly stems from increased surface melting and meltwater runoff from the Greenland ice sheet. Multi-year snow, also known as firn, covers about 80% of the ice sheet and retains part of the surface meltwater. Since the firn cold content integrates its physical and thermal characteristics, it is a valuable tool for determining the meltwater-retention potential of firn. We use gap-filled climatological data from nine automatic weather stations in the ice-sheet accumulation area to drive a surface-energy-budget and firn model, validated against firn density and temperature observations, over the 1998–2017 period. Our results show a stable top 20 m firn cold content (CC20) at most sites. Only at the lower-elevation Dye-2 site did CC20 decrease, by 24% in 2012, before recovering to its original value by 2017. Heat conduction towards the surface is the main process feeding CC20 at all nine sites, while CC20 reduction occurs through low-cold-content fresh-snow addition at the surface during snowfall and latent-heat release when meltwater refreezes. Our simulations suggest that firn densification, while reducing pore space for meltwater retention, increases the firn cold content, enhances near-surface meltwater refreezing and potentially sets favourable conditions for ice-slab formation.

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