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Climatological features of glacier and valley winds at the Hintereisferner (Ötztal Alps, Austria)

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Homogeneous wind measurements during summer 1971 and the 2 years 1977/78 were analysed at 3 sites of Hintereisferner (HEF) which is a valley-type glacier of 9 km length and northeasterly exposition in the Austrian Ötztal Alps. Some manifestations of “glacier winds” were found to verify a mesoscale circulation driven by gravity and differential heating of the air above ice surfaces and their ice free moraine surroundings. Modifications are mainly due to local topography and gradient winds.

Throughout the year the wind regime at the glacier, esp. at the tongue, is clearly dominated by downsloping winds, reflecting the great potential of snow and ice areas in generating cold air downflow. Undisturbed glacier winds were found to occur most likely on sunny days with weak upper air winds. An influence of katabatic winds down from surrounding moraine slopes is indicated during night time hours. During sunlit hours the occurrence and strength of glacier winds is clearly correlated to the seasonal and daily solar cycle. The development of a regular diurnal variation of wind speeds with a single maximum about 5 m/s during afternoon hours is typical for the glacial wind regime and is most pronounced during the melting season. The observed wind speeds correspond with the diurnal development of vertical and horizontal temperature gradients of the air above the glacier.

Clear day northerly winds penetrate most frequently in spring and autumn as far as to the tongue of HEF and are likely to represent thermally driven upvalley winds. They characterize fine weather in alpine valleys, when even signs of a local slope circulation above excessively heated moraine surfaces are indicated too.

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Obleitner, F. Climatological features of glacier and valley winds at the Hintereisferner (Ötztal Alps, Austria). Theor Appl Climatol 49, 225–239 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00867462

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  • Wind Regime
  • Horizontal Temperature Gradient
  • Katabatic Wind
  • Mesoscale Circulation
  • Alpine Valley