- Winds can enhance or diminish typical seasonal density-driven cave ventilation
- The wind-driven effect is generated by variations in the wind pressure field
- The effect depends on the cave configuration and its surface connections
- This study provides a better understanding of cave climate and karst processes
Density-driven chimney effect airflow is the most common form of cave ventilation, allowing gas exchange between the outside and the karst subsurface. However, cave ventilation can also be driven by other mechanisms, such as barometric changes or pressure differences induced by the outside winds. We discuss the mechanism and dynamics of wind-driven ventilation using observations in Postojna Cave, Slovenia. We show how seasonal airflow patterns driven by the chimney effect are substantially modified by outside winds. Wind flow over irregular topography forms near-surface air pressure variations and thus pressure differences between cave entrances at different locations. These pressure differences depend on wind speed and direction and their relationship to surface topography and the location of cave entrances. Winds can act in the same or opposite direction as the chimney effect and can either enhance, diminish or even reverse the direction of the density-driven airflows. To examine the possibility of wind-driven flow, we used a computational fluid dynamics model to calculate the wind pressure field over Postojna Cave and the pressure differences between selected points for different configurations of wind speed and direction. We compared these values with those obtained from airflow measurements in the cave and from simple theoretical considerations. Despite the simplicity of the approach and the complexity of the cave system, the comparisons showed satisfactory agreement. This allowed a more general assessment of the relative importance of wind pressure for subsurface ventilation. We are certain that this example is not unique and that the wind-driven effect needs to be considered elsewhere to provide better insights into the dynamics of cave climate, air composition or dripwater geochemistry.
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Kukuljan, L., Gabrovsek, F., Covington, M.D., 2021. The relative importance of wind-driven and chimney effect cave ventilation: Observations in Postojna Cave (Slovenia). International Journal of Speleology, 50(3), 275-288. https://doi.org/10.5038/1827-806X.50.3.2392