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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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Reid, J. E. , Pfaffling, A. , Worby, A. P. and Bishop, J. R. (2006): In-situ measurements of the direct-current conductivity of Antarctic sea ice: implications for airborne electromagnetic sounding of sea-ice thickness , Annals of Glaciology .
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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-icesea-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 Sm1, and that in the vertical direction to be 912 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.

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