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A snow sensor experiment in Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica

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In January 2000 nine snow sensors were deployed in Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica, along a 355 km transect from Kvitkuven near the shelf edge via the Finnish research station, Aboa, to the Amundsenisen plateau. The purpose was to test a sensor system for spatio-temporal variations in temperature across the snow–air interface and snow accumulation/ablation, which includes atmospheric net balance and migrating snow dunes. In the dry snow conditions, environmental static electricity interfered with data transfer; several sensors were disabled early, while the longest record reached 6 months. Along the main transect, the year 2000 mass balance ranged from 52 to 221 mm w.e., largely following spatial patterns seen by other researchers. The level increased toward the edge of the ice sheet; unloading of drifting snow as the slope flattens, rather than increased snowfall as previously thought, may be responsible for this. At the Högisen ice dome site the mass balance was 897 mm w.e., possibly due to unloading of wind-blown snow, as katabatic winds are locally forced uphill. This mechanism is important to maintain such topographic features along the Antarctic ice sheet margin. Major precipitation events occurred at 3–5 week intervals and much of the precipitation fell before mid-June. The daily signal in temperature disappeared after the autumn equinox, then the spectrum displayed a broad peak at synoptic frequencies. Potential temperature decreased towards the shelf edge, displaying a pattern consistent with strong inversions and suggesting that strong evaporative cooling is associated with the katabatic winds.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2009

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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