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Diffusional flux of CO2 through snow: Spatial and temporal variability among alpine-subalpine sites

Posted date: May 28, 2015
Publication Year: 
1996
Authors: Sommerfeld, Richard A.; Massman Jr, William J.Musselman, Robert (Bob) C.
Publication Series: 
Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Source: Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 10(3): 473-482.

Abstract

Three alpine and three subalpine sites were monitored for up to 4 years to acquire data on the temporal and spatial variability of CO2 flux through snowpacks. We conclude that the snow formed a passive cap which controlled the concentration of CO2 at the snow-soil interface, while the flux of CO2 into the atmosphere was controlled by CO2 production in the soil. Seasonal variability in the flux at all sites was characterized by early winter minima followed by a rise in flux that averaged 70% above the minima over about a 1-month period. The seasonal variability was not related to soil temperatures which remained relatively constant. Interannual variability was small, and spatial variability was smaller than previously reported. Spatial variability on a scale of 1 to 10 m was less than 30% of the average fluxes and not significantly greater than estimated error in most cases. Spatial variability on a scale of 10- to 100-m was about a factor of 2 and on a scale of 100 to 1000 m was about a factor of 4. The 100- to 1000-m variability was complicated by the fact that the sites were in different ecosystems, alpine and subalpine, and at different elevations. We attribute the small variability at the 1- to 10-m scale to the deep snow cover, from 1.4 to 5 m. We hypothesize that horizontal diffusion under the snow cover reduced small-scale horizontal gradients, while the insulating effect of the deep snow cover kept the soil temperature and moisture relatively constant. Equivalent annual wintertime flux averaged about 95 g C m−2 yr−1 in the alpine and about 232 g C m−2 yr−1 in the subalpine sites. Measurements of CO2 concentrations at 0.2 and 0.5 m in the soil of one of the subalpine sites indicated that production early in the snow season occurred at or below 0.5 m while production between 0.5 m, and the surface became important after the start of the melt season.

Citation

Sommerfeld, Richard A.; Massman, William J.; Musselman, Robert C. 1996. Diffusional flux of CO2 through snow: Spatial and temporal variability among alpine-subalpine sites. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 10(3): 473-482.