The application and modification of WRF-Hydro/Glacier to a cold-based Antarctic glacier

TitleThe application and modification of WRF-Hydro/Glacier to a cold-based Antarctic glacier
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2024
AuthorsPletzer, T, Conway, JP, Cullen, NJ, Eidhammer, T, Katurji, M
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Pagination459 - 478
Date Published02/2024

The McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDV) are home to a unique microbial ecosystem that is dependent on the availability of freshwater. This is a polar desert and freshwater originates almost entirely from surface and near-surface melt of the cold-based glaciers. Understanding the future evolution of these environments requires the simulation of the full chain of physical processes from net radiative forcing, surface energy balance, melt, runoff and transport of meltwater in stream channels from the glaciers to the terminal lakes where the microbial community resides. To establish a new framework to do this, we present the first application of WRF-Hydro/Glacier in the MDV, which as a fully distributed hydrological model has the capability to resolve the streams from the glaciers to the bare land that surround them. Given that meltwater generation in the MDV is almost entirely dependent on small changes in the energy balance of the glaciers, the aim of this study is to optimize the multi-layer snowpack scheme that is embedded in WRF-Hydro/Glacier to ensure that the feedbacks between albedo, snowfall and melt are fully resolved. To achieve this, WRF-Hydro/Glacier is implemented at a point scale using automatic weather station data on Commonwealth Glacier to physically model the onset, duration and end of melt over a 7-month period (1 August 2021 to 28 February 2022). To resolve the limited energetics controlling melt, it was necessary to (1) limit the percolation of meltwater through the ice layers in the multi-layer snowpack scheme and (2) optimize the parameters controlling the albedo of both snow and ice over the melt season based on observed spectral signatures of albedo. These modifications enabled the variability of broadband albedo over the melt season to be accurately simulated and ensured that modelled surface and near-surface temperatures, surface height change and runoff were fully resolved. By establishing a new framework that couples a detailed snowpack model to a fully distributed hydrological model, this work provides a stepping stone to model the spatial and temporal variability of melt and streamflow in the future, which will enable some of the unknown questions about the hydrological connectivity of the MDV to be answered.