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A model study of differences of snow thinning on Arctic and Antarctic first-year sea ice during spring and summer

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The one-dimensional snow model SNTHERM is validated using field measurements of snow and superimposed ice thickness and surface energy fluxes. These were performed during the spring-to-summer transition in Svalbard and in the Weddell Sea, Antarctica. Both the seasonal snow-thickness decrease and the formation of superimposed ice are well reproduced by the model. During the three observation periods, observed and modeled snow thickness differ only by 13.1–27.1 mm on average. In regional studies, the model is forced with atmospheric re-analysis data (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts) and applied to several meridional transects across the Arctic and Southern Ocean. These show fundamental regional differences in the onset, duration and magnitude of snow thinning in summer. In the central Arctic, snowmelt onset occurs within a narrow time range of ±11 days and without significant regional differences. In contrast, the snow cover on Antarctic sea ice begins to melt about 25 days earlier and the length of the Antarctic snow-thinning season increases with increasing latitude. The importance of melting and evaporation for the modeled snow-thickness decrease is very different in the two hemispheres. The ratio of evaporated snow mass to melted snow mass per unit area is derived from the model, and amounts to approximately 4.2 in the Antarctic and only 0.75 in the Arctic. This agrees with observations and model results of the surface energy balance, and illustrates the dominance of surface cooling by upward turbulent fluxes in the Antarctic.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2006-11-01

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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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