Discharge dependence of stream albedo in a steep proglacial channel

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Abstract

Stream surface albedo was measured at a location downstream of Place Glacier, Canada, in a steep bouldery channel. Portions of the water surface were visibly aerated as a result of the cascading flow even at lower discharges; at high flows, the stream was near-continuous whitewater. Albedo generally increased with discharge, from around 0.1 at the lower flows to 0.4 at the highest flows. This increase is consistent with the known effect of aeration on the reflectance of water. This discharge dependence of albedo needs to be accounted for in physically based models for predicting stream temperature to avoid biased predictions of net radiation. For steep proglacial streams that experience decreasing late-summer flows as a result of ongoing and future glacier recession, the associated decrease in albedo could promote higher stream temperatures, in addition to the effects of reduced flow depth and velocity.

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