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Linkage of cave-ice changes to weather patterns inside and outside the cave Eisriesenwelt (Tennengebirge, Austria)

Author(s): W. Schöner | G. Weyss | E. Mursch-Radlgruber

Journal: The Cryosphere Discussions
ISSN 1994-0432

Volume: 4;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 1709;
Date: 2010;
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The behaviour of perennial ice masses in karst caves in relation to the outside climate is still not well understood, though a significant potential of the cave-ice for paleo-climate reconstructions could be expected. This study investigates the relationship between weather patterns inside and outside the cave Eisriesenwelt (Austrian Alps) and the ice-surface changes of the ice-covered part of the cave from extensive measurements. It is shown that under recent climate the cave ice mass balance is more sensitive to winter climate for the inner parts of the cave and sensitive to winter and summer climate for the entrance near parts of the cave. For recent climate conditions ice surface changes can be well described from cave atmosphere measurements, indicating a clear annual cycle with weak mass loss in winter due to sublimation, stable ice conditions in spring until summer (autumn for the remoter parts of the cave) and significant melt in late summer to autumn (for the entrance near parts of the cave). Interestingly, surface ice melt plays a minor role for ablation at the inner parts of the cave. Based on our measurements and other observations it is rather likely that sublimation was the major source for ice loss in Eisriesenwelt since the begin of the 20th century. Build-up of the ice in spring (as expected from theory) was not observed as a general feature of the ice dynamics. Generally, the ice body currently appears in a quite balanced state, though the influence of show-cave management on ice mass-balance could not be clearly quantified.
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