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Snow-depth observations by adventurers traveling on Arctic sea ice

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Snow depth is a key parameter for assessing the sea-ice mass budget in the Arctic and for the surface energy balance at the atmosphere–snow–ice–ocean interfaces. However, scientific expeditions to the high Arctic Ocean are rare, and for large parts of the year no snow and ice data are collected in situ in most regions. Therefore any additional in situ observations of snow depth are of interest to the scientific community. Arctic adventurers and tourists are among the most frequent visitors to the Arctic Ocean and North Pole. If properly trained and carefully adhering to standard protocols, they could collect valuable snow-depth data from large regions. Here we analyse such data from four Arctic basin ski traverses carried out between 1994 and 2007. Individual datasets show characteristic regional differences of snow thickness, which provide invaluable information for the validation of models and satellite data. The observations were made applying a continuously upgraded observation guideline scheme. Earlier observations were based on a relatively broad view of easily observable snow and ice parameters. Improvements included requirements of more detailed snow-thickness surveys in order to observe the spatial variability over varying sea-ice surfaces in a better way. Possibilities for, and limitations of, ice-thickness estimates and measurements are also discussed. Often, assessment of ice thickness is more problematic since measurements are either time-consuming or biased, meaning that possibilities for collecting large datasets are limited.

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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