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Topographic control of regional accumulation rate variability at South Pole and implications for ice-core interpretation

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Snow-accumulation rates are known to be sensitive to local changes in ice-sheet surface slope because of the effect of katabatic winds. These topographic effects can be preserved in ice cores that are collected at non-ice-divide locations. The trajectory of an ice-core site at South Pole is reconstructed using measurements of ice-sheet motion to show that snow was probably deposited at places of different surface slope during the past 1000 years. Recent accumulation rates, derived from shallow firn cores, vary along this trajectory according to surface topography, so that on a relatively steep flank mean annual accumulation is ∼18% smaller than on a nearby topographic depression. These modern accumulation rates are used to reinterpret the cause of accumulation rate variability with time in the long ice-core record as an ice-dynamics effect and not a climate-change signal. The results highlight the importance of conducting ancillary ice-dynamics measurements as part of ice-coring programs so that topographic effects can be deconvolved from potential climate signals.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2004

More about this publication?
  • 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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