Ice Caves Climate


Aurel Persoiu


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Publication Date

January 2018


The interplay of temperature (air and substrata), humidity and air movement in caves, on a background of peculiar cave morphology, is responsible for the genesis, accumulation and dynamics of ice in caves. With few exceptions, the vast majority of ice caves occur in regions where the mean annual air temperature (MAAT) is well above 0°C, the peculiar cave climate responsible for cave glaciations being the result of specific types of air circulation. The most important cooling mechanisms responsible for cave ice formation (and preservation) are cold air advection through gravitational settling and chimney effect. Gravitational occurs in single entrance, descending caves (or in caves with multiple entrances situated at roughly similar elevations) during winter months, when thermal differences between the external and internal air translate into cold air flow to the caves. Inflow of air into caves due to the chimney effect occurs in caves with multiple (at least two) entrances located at different altitudes, as a direct consequence of temperature contrast between the cave’s atmosphere and the external environment. These differences result in a pressure gradient between the cave entrances, which in turn triggers airflow through the cave. A direct consequence of air circulation between caves and the outside environment is changes in temperature and humidity in their atmospheres and substrata. Fluctuations of cave air temperatures follow external ones in both dynamically ventilated caves (caves with two or more entrances) and cold-air traps, the amplitudes decreasing with increasing distance from the entrance. In cold air traps, during summer months, the external and cave environment are not connected via air circulation; conductive transfer through the air column in the entrance and the rock walls, as well as dripping water are the main heat sources for the cave atmosphere, while the latent heat consumed in thawing the ice and sensible heat responsible for warming ice and rock are the main heat sinks. Positive MAATs ou


Ice Caves, Climate Temperature, Circulation

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