Factors influencing the ground thermal regime in a mid-latitude glacial cirque (Hoyo Empedrado, Cantabrian Mountains, 2006–2020)

Abstract

.Air and near-surface ground temperatures were measured using dataloggers over 14 years (2006–2020) in 10 locations at 2262 to 2471 m.a.s.l. in a glacial cirque of the Cantabrian Mountains. These sites exhibit relevant differences in terms of substrate, solar radiation, orientation, and geomorphology. Basal temperature of snow (BTS) measurements and electrical resistivity tomography of the talus slope were also performed. The mean annual near-surface ground temperatures ranged from 5.1 °C on the sunny slope to 0.2 °C in the rock glacier furrow, while the mean annual air temperature was 2.5 °C. Snow cover was inferred from near-surface ground temperature (GST) data, estimating between 130 and 275 days per year and 0.5 to 7.1 m snow thickness. Temperature and BTS data show that the lowest part of the talus slope and the rock glacier furrow are the coldest places in this cirque, coinciding with a more persistent and thickest snow cover. The highest temperatures coincide with less snow cover, fine-grained soils, and higher solar radiation. Snow cover has a primary role in controlling GST, as the delayed appearance in autumn or delayed disappearance in spring have a cooling effect, but no correlation with mean annual near-surface ground temperatures exists. Heavy rain-over-snow events have an important influence on the GST. In the talus slope, air circulation during the snow-covered period produces a cooling effect in the lower part, especially during the summer. Significant inter-annual GST differences were observed that exhibited BTS limitations. A slight positive temperature trend was detected but without statistically significance and less prominent than nearby reference official meteorological stations, so topoclimatic conditions reduced the more global positive temperature trend. Probable existence of permafrost in the rock glacier furrow and the lowest part of the talus slope is claimed; however, future work is necessary to confirm this aspect.S

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