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Interannual and regional variability of Southern Ocean snow on sea ice

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Snow depth on sea ice plays a critical role in the heat exchange between ocean and atmosphere because of its thermal insulation property. Furthermore, a heavy snow load on the relatively thin Southern Ocean sea-ice cover submerges the ice floes below sea level, causing snow-to-ice conversion. Snowfall is also an important freshwater source into the weakly stratified ocean. Snow-depth on sea-ice information can be used as an indirect measure of solid precipitation. Satellite passive microwave data are used to investigate the interannual and regional variability of the snow cover on sea ice. In this study we make use of 12 years (1992–2003) of Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I) radiances to calculate average monthly snow depth on the Antarctic sea-ice cover. For the Antarctic sea-ice region as a whole, we find that September snow depth and sea-ice area are negatively correlated, which is not the case for individual regions. An analysis of the snow depth around Antarctica was undertaken. The results show an overall increase in snow depth for each of the five Antarctic sectors and the region as a whole, but only the Indian Ocean sector and the entire Southern Ocean show a statistically significant increase. There is a partial eastward propagation of maximum snow depths, which may be related to the Antarctic Circumpolar Wave. The overall trend and the variability of regional snow-depth distributions are also in agreement with cyclone density.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 2006

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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