Articles | Volume 70, issue 1
Standard article
23 Feb 2015
Standard article |  | 23 Feb 2015

Ground temperature variations in a talus slope influenced by permafrost: a comparison of field observations and model simulations

B. Staub, A. Marmy, C. Hauck, C. Hilbich, and R. Delaloye

Abstract. Variations in surface and near-surface ground temperatures (GST) dominate the evolution of the ground thermal regime over time and represent the upper boundary condition for the subsurface. Focusing on the Lapires talus slope in the south-western part of the Swiss Alps, which partly contains massive ground ice, and using a joint observational and modelling approach, this study compares and combines observed and simulated GST in the proximity of a borehole. The aim was to determine the applicability of the physically based subsurface model COUP to accurately reproduce spatially heterogeneous GST data and to enhance its reliability for long-term simulations. The reconstruction of GST variations revealed very promising results, even though two-dimensional processes like the convection within the coarse-blocky sediments close to the surface or ascending air circulation throughout the landform ("chimney effect") are not included in the model. For most simulations, the model bias revealed a distinct seasonal pattern mainly related to the simulation of the snow cover. The study shows that, by means of a detailed comparison of GST simulations with ground truth data, the calibration of the upper boundary conditions – which are crucial for modelling the subsurface – could be enhanced.