The Ammassalik region is characterized by a strong alpine relief, with altitudes up to 1,000 m. Glaciers are located mainly on the western side of ridges. The climate is low arctic, with annual precipitation amounts of more than 1,000 mm, which falls mainly as snow. Furthermore very strong storms occur frequently throughout the region. All together these factors support strong snow redistribution by wind, which likely explains the glacier locations, and also explains the observed regional runoff differences. The aim of this study is to apply the Liston & Sturm snow-transport model (SnowTran-3D) to elucidate the snow distribution according to the actual climatic conditions. A digital terrain model was used to determine the terrain forcing of the wind field. Precipitation data from the Ammassalik meteorological station were corrected for aerodynamic errors and orographic effects. Wind, temperature and humidity were obtained from a station located on a nunatak 515 m.a.s.l. at the equilibrium line on the Mittivakkat Glacier. The recorded winter accumulation (balance) of snow on the glacier was used for model calibration and testing. Significant snow transport from east-facing slopes to west-facing slopes was confirmed by the model. The drift accumulations were greatest at the head of the glacier, just on the lee side of the ridge east of the glacier. In some areas, as much as 10% of the precipitation was returned to the atmosphere by blowing-snow sublimation. An average snow water equivalent of 113 cm was obtained (not including some minor areas having snow depths as great as 4 m). These results compare well with glacier observations of 114 cm collected in May 1998 (during the field survey the 4 m areas are omitted because of crevasse hazards). Future work will use the model to test scenarios that include changes in wind regime.
- © IWA Publishing 2003