Meltwater temperature in streams draining from Alpine glaciers

Williamson, RJ 2016, Meltwater temperature in streams draining from Alpine glaciers , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

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Thermal conditions in river water are of importance as they influence water quality, chemical processes, ecology, and biological conditions in rivers. In meltwater streams draining from Alpine glaciers, temperatures measured close to glacier termini show strong diurnal variation and paradoxical seasonal variation, being cool when energy availability is greatest. This thesis aims to describe temporal variations of water temperatures in five glacier-fed streams, which drain catchments of varying percentage glacierisation, in the Swiss Alps. Contrasting patterns of ablation season meltwater temperatures, and influences of basin characteristics and river channel morphology on water temperature are assessed. Relationships between solar radiation, air temperature, and water temperature were also investigated. A model was developed in order to estimate the impact of glacier recession on meltwater temperature. Observed temperatures in the Findelenbach during one ablation season were used to calibrate the model, which was subsequently validated on other years. Paucity of data in mountainous regions necessitated a model that required few measured variables to be developed. Distinctive seasonal water temperature regime was identified for larger rivers which drain relatively steep catchments, with substantial basin ice coverage. Such a regime is not replicated in streams draining smaller glaciers with lower gradients. Patterns in diurnal ranges of temperature in rivers draining large glaciers have been identified, temperature ranges reducing during days with high radiation and rising riverflows. Stream surface area was found to be the main catchment characteristic influencing temperature in glacier-fed rivers. Measured stream albedo values suggest that surface reflectivity is unlikely to be a major control on water temperature. Stream temperatures simulated by the model demonstrate high fidelity to those measured in the field. The temperature of glacier-fed streams will increase as climate warms as the distance over which heating can occur will lengthen as glaciers retreat, despite volume of flow being augmented by the deglaciation discharge dividend.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Contributors: Collins, DN (Supervisor)
Schools: Schools > School of Environment and Life Sciences > Ecosystems and Environment Research Centre
Funders: Non funded research
Depositing User: Robert James Williamson
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2016 13:45
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 20:31

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