Direct measurements of episodic snow accumulation on the Antarctic polar plateau
Braaten, David A.
Scholarly/refereed, publisher version
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During a 1-year field experiment at a remote location on the Antarctic polar plateau (85.67°S, 46.38°W) influenced by moderate magnitude katabatic winds, snow accumulation was characterized at three different spatial and temporal scales using snow stakes, tracer material dispersed periodically on the snow surface, and an acoustic depth gauge. The spatial variability of snow accumulation was found to be large, on both annual and intra-annual timescales, and is attributed to the high frequency of moderate to strong winds at the site. Accumulation throughout the year was observed to be episodic in nature, with a small number of snow accumulation events producing the majority of the annual total accumulation for the site, averaging 0.174 m. In the intervals between observed accumulation events (up to several months), negative changes to snow surface height caused by sublimation and densification of the firn were quantified using an acoustic depth gauge. The rate of decrease in snow surface elevation was largest during the austral summer, as expected, and the overall change in snow surface elevation due to sublimation/densification during the year was estimated to be about −0.10 m. Using the precise timing of accumulation events provided by the acoustic depth gauge, meteorological surface observations, numerical model analyses, and satellite imagery were used to gain insights into whether the event was associated with precipitation or related exclusively to blowing snow and to diagnose the meteorological conditions producing the event. Meteorological conditions during the accumulation events were found to strongly support an association with precipitation events caused by mesoscale or synoptic-scale cyclones along the coastal margin. Dating of the accumulation profile using the dispersed tracer technique identified several other accumulation events that were not measured within the target area of the acoustic depth gauge, suggesting that snow accumulation data from a single acoustic depth gauge cannot be extrapolated over a broad area.
This is the published version, also available here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2000JD900099.
Braaten, D. A. (2000), Direct measurements of episodic snow accumulation on the Antarctic polar plateau, J. Geophys. Res., 105(D8), 10119–10128, http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2000JD900099.
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