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In situ measurements of the direct-current conductivity of Antarctic sea ice: implications for airborne electromagnetic sounding of sea-ice thickness

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Airborne, ship-borne and surface low-frequency electromagnetic (EM) methods have become widely applied to measure sea-ice thickness. EM responses measured over sea ice depend mainly on the sea-water conductivity and on the height of the sensor above the sea-ice–sea-water interface, but may be sensitive to the sea-ice conductivity at high excitation frequencies. We have conducted in situ measurements of direct-current conductivity of sea ice using standard geophysical geoelectrical methods. Sea-ice thickness estimated from the geoelectrical sounding data was found to be consistently underestimated due to the pronounced vertical-to-horizontal conductivity anisotropy present in level sea ice. At five sites, it was possible to determine the approximate horizontal and vertical conductivities from the sounding data. The average horizontal conductivity was found to be 0.017 S m−1, and that in the vertical direction to be 9–12 times higher. EM measurements over level sea ice are sensitive only to the horizontal conductivity. Numerical modelling has shown that the assumption of zero sea-ice conductivity in interpretation of airborne EM data results in a negligible error in interpreted thickness for typical level Antarctic sea ice.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 2006

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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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