Condensation as a microclimate process: measurement, numerical simulation and prediction in the Glowworm Cave, New Zealand



The study examines condensation as a microclimate process. It focuses first on finding a reliable method for measuring condensation and then on testing a numerical model for predicting condensation rates. The study site is the Glowworm Cave, a heavily used tourist cave in New Zealand. Preservation of the cave and its management as a sustainable tourist resource are high priorities. Here, as in other caves, condensation in carbon dioxide enriched air can lead to corrosion of calcite features. Specially constructed electronic sensors for measuring on-going condensation, as well as evaporation of the condensate, are tested. Measurements of condensation made over a year are used to test a physical model of condensation in the cave defined as a function of the vapour gradient between the cave air and condensation surface and a convection transfer coefficient. The results show that the amount and rate of condensation can be accurately measured and predicted. Air exchange with the outside can increase or decrease condensation rates, but the results show that the convection transfer coefficient remains constant. Temporal patterns of condensation in the cave are identified, as well as factors that influence these. Short-term and longer-term temporal variations of condensation rates are observed and patterns explained. Seasonal changes are large, with higher condensation rates occurring in the warmer months and lower rates during the cooler months. It is shown that controlling air exchange between the cave and the outside can influence condensation. This and other aspects of cave management are discussed. Copyright © 2003 Royal Meteorological Society