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The importance of wind-blown snow redistribution to snow accumulation on Bellingshausen Sea ice

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Snow distribution is a dominating factor in sea-ice mass balance in the Bellingshausen Sea, Antarctica, through its roles in insulating the ice and contributing to snow-ice production. The wind has long been qualitatively recognized to influence the distribution of snow accumulation on sea ice, but the relative importance of drifting and blowing snow has not been quantified over Antarctic sea ice prior to this study. The presence and magnitude of drifting snow were monitored continuously along with wind speeds at two sites on an ice floe in the Bellingshausen Sea during the October 2007 Sea Ice Mass Balance in the Antarctic (SIMBA) experiment. Contemporaneous precipitation measurements collected on board the RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer and accumulation measurements by automated ice mass-balance buoys (IMBs) allow us to document the proportion of snowfall that accumulated on level ice surfaces in the presence of high winds and blowing-snow conditions. Accumulation on the sea ice during the experiment averaged <0.01 m w.e. at both IMB sites, during a period when European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts analyses predicted >0.03 m w.e. of precipitation on the ice floe. Accumulation changes on the ice floe were clearly associated with drifting snow and high winds. Drifting-snow transport during the SIMBA experiment was supply-limited. Using these results to inform a preliminary study using a blowing-snow model, we show that over the entire Southern Ocean approximately half of the precipitation over sea ice could be lost to leads.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2011-05-01

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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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