Wind-driven snow distribution patterns over an Antarctic ice floe

Sea ice, snow and atmosphere interactions are major drivers of the spatial distribution of snow over sea ice in polar regions. Here, we combine measurements of the wind flow, atmospheric conditions and blowing snow at two locations on an Antarctic sea ice floe, with terrestrial laser scanning to characterize a blowing snow storm and its influence on the spatial patterns of snow distribution at resolutions of 1-10 cm over an area of 100 m x 100 m. The datasets were obtained during the SIPEX II (Sea Ice Physics and Ecosystem eXperiment II) research voyage to East Antarctica (September-November 2012). The pre-storm surface (2012-10-20) exhibits multi-directional elongated snow dunes behind aerodynamic obstacles likely formed during previous snowstorms. The post-storm surface (2012-10-23) exhibits clear new deposition dunes elongated along the predominant wind direction. The new deposition areas amount to 38% of the total surveyed area. Patterns of erosion are less evident but cover a larger portion of the area. This results in a total volume of change near zero with a mean elevation difference of 0.02 m indicating that net erosion or deposition from snowfall was small despite of large mass relocation. After the storm, the statistical distributions of elevation and the 2D correlation functions remain similar to those of the pre-storm surface. The pre- and post-storm surfaces also exhibit power-law relationships in the power spectrum with little change between pre- and post-storm slopes. These observations suggest that despite the significant change observed in the snow surface patterns, the change does not translate into significant changes in the spatial statistical and scaling properties of the surface morphology. Such an observation is important for sea-ice model representations of the sub-pixel variability of sea ice surfaces, particularly between snowstorm events, although more datasets will be required to extend these results to a wider range of sea ice surface morphologies.

Presented at:
AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA, USA, December 14-18, 2015

 Record created 2016-02-01, last modified 2018-01-28

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