Small scale variability of snow density on Antarctic sea ice

Snow on sea ice plays an important role in air-ice-sea interactions, as snow accumulation may for example increase the albedo. Snow is also able to smooth the ice surface, while at the same time it may generate roughness elements by interactions with the wind. Snow density is a key property in many processes, for example by influencing the thermal conductivity of the snow layer, radiative transfer inside the snow as well as the effects of aerodynamic forcing on the snowpack. By comparing snow density from snow pits and snow micro penetrometer (SMP) measurements, augmented by terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) on an area of 50x50 m2, highly resolved density profiles and surface topology were acquired at a horizontal resolution of approximately 30 cm. Average snow densities are about 300 kg/m3, but the analysis also reveals a high spatial variability in snow density on sea ice in both horizontal and vertical direction, ranging from roughly 150 to 500 kg/m3. This variability is expressed by coherent snow structures over several meters. A comparison with TLS data indicates that the spatial variability is related to deviations in surface topology. This suggests a strong influence from surface processes, for example wind, on the temporal development of density profiles. The fundamental relationship between density variations, surface roughness and changes therein as investigated in this study are interpreted with respect to larger-scale ice-movement and ice mass balance.

Presented at:
26th General Assembly of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, Prague, Czech Republic, June-July 22-2, 2015

 Record created 2016-01-19, last modified 2018-03-17

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