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Thickness and density of snow-covered sea ice and hydrostatic equilibrium assumption from in situ measurements in Fram Strait, the Barents Sea and the Svalbard coast

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Modern satellite measurements of sea-ice thickness are based on altimeter measurements of the difference in elevation between the snow or ice surface and the local sea surface. For retrieval of seaice thickness, it is assumed that the ice is in hydrostatic equilibrium, and that the snow load on the ice and the density of the sea ice and sea water are known. This study presents data from in situ sea-ice thickness drillings and snow and ice density measurements from Fram Strait, the Barents Sea and the Svalbard coast, in the European Arctic. The error in the altimetry ice thickness products is assessed based on the spatial variability of snow and ice density and snow thickness data. Ice thickness uncertainty related to snow depth was found to be ∼40 cm (radar altimeter) and ∼90 cm (laser altimeter), while uncertainty related to ice density is 25 cm for both techniques. The assumption of hydrostatic equilibrium at the scales of the measurements (10–100 m) was found to hold better in the case of level landfast ice near Svalbard than for Fram Strait drift ice, which consists of mixed ice types, where the deviation between the calculated and measured ice thicknesses was on average ∼0.5 m.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 1, 2011

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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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