Seasonal evolution of snow cover on Antarctic sea ice
Snow cover on Antarctic sea ice plays a key role in the evolution of ice thickness, its estimation from space-borne altimeters, and structuring of sea ice ecosystems. Yet until recently, there have been very few continuous observations of the seasonal evolution of snow cover on Antarctic sea ice. We present observations of the seasonal evolution of the snow cover from ice mass balance buoys (IMBs) deployed between 2009 and 2013 in the Weddell, Bellingshausen, and Amundsen Seas and the East Antarctic sector. In addition, automatic weather stations that provided direct observations of precipitation, accumulation, and blowing snow were deployed alongside IMBs in October, 2012 in the East Antarctic during the Sea Ice Physics and Ecosystem eXperiment II (SIPEX II), and in July and August, 2013 in the Weddell Sea during the Antarctic Winter Ecosystem and Climate Study (AWECS). These buoys show markedly different snow accumulation regimes in each sector, although accumulation is also strongly controlled by the local morphology of the ice cover through snow erosion and deposition during blowing snow and precipitations events. Comparisons of snow accumulation from these buoys with estimates from atmospheric reanalysis and the direct measurements of precipitation and blowing snow show that precipitation is generally not a good estimator of snow accumulation. Improved treatment of blowing snow is needed if sea ice models are to accurately simulate Antarctic snow and sea ice mass balance. In summer, melting of the snow pack is relatively modest in most cases. Nevertheless, it appears to play an important role in governing sea ice hydrology and sea ice surface properties, and hence may play an important role in modulating sea ice primary productivity.