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Microclimates in fumarole ice caves on volcanic edifices-Mount Rainier, Washington, USA
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  • Lee John Florea,
  • Andreas Pflitsch,
  • Eduardo Cartaya,
  • Christian Stenner
Lee John Florea
Indiana University Bloomington

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Andreas Pflitsch
Ruhr-University Bochum
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Eduardo Cartaya
Glacier Cave Explorers
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Christian Stenner
Alberta Speleological Society
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The fumarole ice caves of Mount Rainier in the Cascade Volcanic Arc in Washington, USA, provide unique insight into the dynamic equilibrium between thermal flux on volcanic edifices and snow accumulation on summit glaciers. More than 3.5 km of surveyed cave passage nearly circumnavigate the East Crater, reaching within 19 m of the 4392-m summit and extending to 144-m-deep along the glacier-crater boundary. The large circum-crater passage connects entrances on the crater rim to steep transverse passages, and cave morphology is maintained by fumarole gas convection and advection. A melt- and condensate-formed lake, Lake Adélie, occupies a portion of the circum-crater passage. Hourly data were collected between August 2016 and August 2017 and included the measured temperatures at three fumarole, the cave air temperature and pressure, the lake water temperature and depth, and the outside temperature and snow depth at Paradise Visitors Center. Time-series analyses of these data reveal complex associations between synoptic to seasonal weather, fumarole activity, and lake level. On seasonal and longer scales, fumarole temperatures follow independent pathways connected to spatial and temporal changes in volcanic heat flux and the circulation of glacial melt. For synoptic-scale meteorology, major snowfall seals the cave entrances, increasing cave air temperature and pressure from fumarole output and causing rising lake levels from increased melt until entrances reopen. Repeating freeze-thaw cycles observed in the cave monitoring data are a primary cause of crater mass wasting. Despite these variations, the scale and morphology of the caves is preserved over decadal or longer scales.
27 Feb 2021Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres volume 126 issue 4. 10.1029/2020JD033565