Among the different elements of the mountain cryosphere, ice caves still represent the lesser known part of it. Here we present a seven-year-long record of air and rock temperature in a cave of the southeastern European Alps. We demonstrate how the presence of a permanent ice deposit in the cave is not only related to the net cooling effect of the air circulation, as it is well known, but also to the occurrence of relict permafrost. Through a detailed representation of temperature patterns inside the cave, both air and rock data show how after a period of perennially subzero (cryotic) conditions in the rock, ongoing anthropogenic climate warming is responsible for permafrost degradation despite the cooling effect of the air circulation in the cave. Data support the important role of cryotic conditions in the rock in preserving a permanent ice cave deposit in the present climate, even once the possible relict permafrost inherited from the past disappears. A thickness of 29–44 m of permafrost, possibly formed during the Little Ice Age, has now almost completely disappeared. The present abrupt ice degradation observed in this cave is further exacerbated by positive feedbacks related to warmer air circulation in the cave system.

Climate change and rapid ice melt: Suggestions from abrupt permafrost degradation and ice melting in an alpine ice cave

Guglielmin M.
2019-01-01

Abstract

Among the different elements of the mountain cryosphere, ice caves still represent the lesser known part of it. Here we present a seven-year-long record of air and rock temperature in a cave of the southeastern European Alps. We demonstrate how the presence of a permanent ice deposit in the cave is not only related to the net cooling effect of the air circulation, as it is well known, but also to the occurrence of relict permafrost. Through a detailed representation of temperature patterns inside the cave, both air and rock data show how after a period of perennially subzero (cryotic) conditions in the rock, ongoing anthropogenic climate warming is responsible for permafrost degradation despite the cooling effect of the air circulation in the cave. Data support the important role of cryotic conditions in the rock in preserving a permanent ice cave deposit in the present climate, even once the possible relict permafrost inherited from the past disappears. A thickness of 29–44 m of permafrost, possibly formed during the Little Ice Age, has now almost completely disappeared. The present abrupt ice degradation observed in this cave is further exacerbated by positive feedbacks related to warmer air circulation in the cave system.
2019
2019
Alps; climate change; cryosphere; ice caves; Permafrost
Colucci, R. R.; Guglielmin, M.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11383/2152851
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