Mountain permafrost in the Central Pyrenees: insights from the Devaux ice cave

Año Publicación:  2022
Responsable: M. Bartolomé et al.
Journal, Volumen y páginas:
EGUsphere, 1-41


M. Bartolomé, G. Cazenave, M. Luetscher, C. Spötl, F. Gázquez, Á. Belmonte, A. V. Turchyn, J. I. López-Moreno & A. Moreno


 Ice caves are one of the least studied parts of the cryosphere, particularly those located in inaccessible permafrost areas at high altitudes or high latitudes. We characterize the climate dynamics and the geomorphological features of Devaux cave, an outstanding ice cave in the Central Pyrenees on the French-Spanish border. Two distinct cave sectors were identified based on air temperature and geomorphological observations. The first one comprises well-ventilated galleries with large temperature oscillations likely influenced by a cave river. The second sector corresponds to more isolated chambers, where air and rock temperatures stay below 0 ºC throughout the year. Seasonal layered ice and hoarfrost occupy the first sector, while transparent, massive perennial ice is present in the isolated chambers. Cryogenic calcite and gypsum are mainly present within the perennial ice. During winter, the cave river freezes at the outlet, resulting in a damming and back-flooding of the cave. We suggest that relict ice formations record past damming events with subsequent congelation. δ34S values of gypsum indicate that the sulfate originated from the oxidation of pyrite present in the bedrock. Several features including the air and rock temperatures, the absence of drips, the low loss of ice, and the location of ice bodies in the cave indicate the cave permafrost is the result of a combination of undercooling by ventilation and diffusive heat transfer from the surrounding permafrost, reaching ~200 m below the surface.

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