Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Meteorological gradients on Kersten Glacier

The latest Kilimanjaro AWS paper is out, in the EGU Open-Access journal "Earth System Dynamics". Collaborator Thomas Mölg at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität conceived the concept and led the analysis and writing* on Mesoscale atmospheric circulation controls of local meteorological elevation gradients on Kersten Glacier near Kilimanjaro summit.

Anchoring the analysis are measurements made at two automated weather station sites, shown as #3 and #4 on the photo above (taken July 2005 by co-author Nicolas Cullen). The stations span 270 m in elevation; both were installed and operated by the Univ. of Innsbruck team, who have coordinated numerous analyses and publications emphasizing AWS 3 (e.g., Mölg et al., 2009). This new ESD paper uses data from a four-year interval of overlapping measurements (2009-2013), including the 2010 El Niño event.

Besides the empirical knowledge provided by analysis of the AWS datasets, the paper links measured on-glacier gradients to a high-resolution atmospheric modeling data set (Emily Collier), while also considering the large-scale geostrophic flow high on the mountain (~500 hPa).

This study illustrates the importance of field measurements, especially in environments threatened by climate change. Data such as these will endure forever, available for creative new analytical approaches and model validation. Sadly, the Kersten Glacier is no longer intact, now with a large gap between AWS 3 and 4. To the west (left on image above) the Heim Glacier is essentially gone, as is the Decken Glacier to the east (right). Replication of these measurements will never again be possible, due to the loss of ice at high elevations on the mountain...

Here is a link to the article (open access).

*Authors:  Mölg, T., D.R. Hardy, E. Collier, E. Kropač, C. Schmid, N.J. Cullen, G. Kaser, R. Prinz, and M. Winkler

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