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Thermal regimes and snowpack relations of periglacial talus slopes, Sierra Nevada, California, USA.Author(s): Constance I Millar; Robert D. Westfall; Diane L. Delany
Source: Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research. 46(2): 483-504
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
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DescriptionThermal regimes of eight periglacial talus slopes, at contrasting elevations, aspects, and substrates, in the Sierra Nevada, California, had complex microclimatic patterns partially decoupled from external conditions. Over three years, warm seasons showed mean talus matrix temperatures and daily variances lower than surfaces and cooler than free-air; talus surface and matrix positions low in the taluses were colder than higher positions, yielding highly positive altitudinal temperature differentials; ground surface temperatures had greater daily extremes than talus positions; and talus matrix temperatures lagged in response to surface temperature changes. Regulating processes in summer include evaporative cooling, cold-air drainage and Balch effect, and shading effects. In the cold season, talus matrices were warmer than surfaces; low talus positions were warmer than high; isothermal zerocurtain periods occurred before snow disappearance; and snow covered talus low positions more often and longer than higher in the taluses, which were often snow-free. Winter thermal processes likely include insulation from snow cover at talus bases, free exchange between talus matrix and external air in the upper talus, and latent heat from thaw-refreezing in late winter. Permanent ice may occur within high elevation talus slopes. Partially decoupled talus thermal regimes provide buffered habitats for mammals such as American pikas and are likely to be important refugia under future warming.
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CitationMillar, Constance I,; Westfall, Robert D.; Delany, Diane L. 2014. Thermal regimes and snowpack relations of periglacial talus slopes, Sierra Nevada, California, USA. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research. 46(2): 483-504.
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