Snowline tells a story on Suldenferner?

This is less of a blog post and more of a “look at this photo” post. I’m finally sorting through the ton of data collected from Suldenferner this summer and I thought its worth showing this photo taken from the north lateral moraine looking roughly eastward to the to end of the debris covered part of the glacier shown below as it shows a really sharp snowline lying across the debris cover:

It had snowed on the weekend of the 25/26th August, and when we arrived to the glacier on the 27th of August the snowline was cross cutting the glacier.

Looking at it now I am wondering if this snowline tells us where the debris covered ice is – such that the snow lasts a little longer where there is still near sub-surface ice as the ground temperature regime is different and the surface temperatures are likely lower than where the debris is metres thick, thus promoting the slightly longer survival of the snow fall onto that part of the glacier.

The angle of this shot nicely shows that the terrain where the snowcover is lying is also  a step higher – highlighting how a dusting of snow can really help with visualizing geomorphological  features – though only temporarily: Sunshine on Tuesday quickly removed most of the snow after this photo was taken.

Other causes of the feature shown in this photo could be shadowing by the Konigspitze/Zebru mountains, which could explain both the snowcover and terrain height difference as well. I’ll have to cross check this with maps of solar radiation, surface temperature and debris thickness to resolve which is the cause.


About lindsey

Environmental scientist. I am glaciologist specialising in glacier-climate interactions to better understand the climate system. The point of this is to understand how glaciated envionments might change in the future - how the glaciers will respond and what the impact on associated water resources and hazard potential will be.
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