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The Origin of Penitents

  • Louis Lliboitry (a1)
Abstract

Penitents are observed on all the snow fields and glaciers of the Santiago Andes between 4000 and 5200 m. They are caused by the prolonged action of the sun in a dry and cold atmosphere, The sublimation of the snow or ice allows the crests to maintain their temperature below 0° C., while in the spaces or passages between the penitents, where radiation is concentrated and removal of water vapour not so easy, melting takes place. This hypothesis is justified by a brief study of the climate of the high Cordillera of Santiago; this study has been attempted for the first time with the help of meteorological information obtained from La Cumbre (3837 m.).

The first stage of the penitents is a form of “micropenitent,” similar to that observed at the end of the winter below 3500 m. These micropenitents frequently come from crusted snow which has cracked. The compact ice penitents are directly formed from ice, as is proved by the existence of ice micropenitents.

Sommaire

Les pénitents s’observent sur tous les champs dc neige et glaciers des Andes de Santiago entre 4000 et 5200 m. Ils sont dus à l’action prolongée du soleil dans une atmosphère sèche et froide. La sublimation de la neige ou de la glace permet aux crêtes de se maintenir en dessous de 0°, tandis que dans les couloirs entre pénitents, où les radiations se concentrent et d’où la vapeur s’élimine plus difficilement, la fusion fait sort apparition. Cette hypothèse est justifiée par une étude sommaire du climat des Hautes Andes de Santiago, tentée pour la premiere fois it partir des données météorologiques de La Cumbre (3837 m.).

Le point de départ des pénitents est constitué par des “micropénitents,” analogues à ceux que l’on observe à la fin de l’hiver à moins de 3500 m. Ces derniers se forment souvent à partir d’une neige croûteuse craquelée. Les pénitents de glace compacte se forment directement, comme le prouve l’existence de micropénitents de glace.

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Copyright
References
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1. Troll, Carl. Büsserschnee in den Hochgebirgen der Erde. Petermann Geographische Mitteilungen, Ergänzungsheft, Nr. 240. Gotha: Justus Perthes, 1942.
2. Church, J. E. Further on the evaporation and melting of snow at high altitudes. Journal of Glaciology, Vol. 2, No. 13, 1953, P 23335
3. Odell, N. E. Ablation at high altitude and under high solar incidence. American Journal of Science, Vol 239, 1941, 37982.
4.(a) Wright, C. S. Priestley, R. E. British (Terra Nova) Antarctic Expedition 1910–1913, Glaciology. London: Harrison and Sons, 1922.
(b) Wright, C. S. Priestley, R. E. Personal communication from Prof. Humberto Barrera.
5. Workman, William H. Nieve penitente and allied formations in Himalaya or surface-forms of névé and ice created or modelled by melting. Zeitschrift für Gletscherkunde, Bd. 8, 1914, p. 289330.
6. Matthes, F. E. Ablation of snow at high altitudes by radiant solar heat. Transactions American Geophysical Union, 15th Annual Meeting, April 26–28, 1934, p. 38085.
7. Barrera, Humberto. A study of the “Nieve penitente” of the Chilean Andes. Union Internationale de Géodésie et de Géophysique, Association Internationale d’Hydrologie Scientifique. Assemblée Générale à Erlimbourg, 14–26 Septembre 1936. (Riga, 1938.) Bulletin No. 23, Deuxième partie, p. 587622.
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Journal of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0022-1430
  • EISSN: 1727-5652
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-glaciology
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