Interannual and regional variability of Southern Ocean snow on sea ice
Abstract: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
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