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Scales of spatial heterogeneity for perennial and seasonal snow layers

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Local observations of snow layers are used as the basis for spatial extrapolation of snow properties and for establishing a time record of snow deposition, yet significant lateral variations in layer thickness, density and microstructure are well documented. Here we examine the nature of layer heterogeneity over distances of 10–100000 m using data from primarily flat locations in Alaska, Antarctica and Greenland. We find that at a scale of 10 m or less, perennial snow layers on glaciers and ice sheets are more uniform and laterally continuous than seasonal layers, which, in addition to heterogeneity introduced by wind and water percolation, are also affected by local topography and vegetation. At a scale of about 100 m, heterogeneity of seasonal and perennial snow layers converges and approaches a peak value. At larger scales (103–105m), local (order 100 m) forcing continues to produce most of the layer heterogeneity, with synoptic-scale variations adding small amounts. Cross-correlation at these larger scales is based on recognizing distinctive layer sequences or matching a few key layers of snow. Many layers cannot be correlated because they pinch out or change at scales (i.e.100 m) smaller than the spacing between snow pits.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2004

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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