Snow Depth and Air Temperature Seasonality on Sea Ice Derived From Snow Buoy Measurements

Mario.Hoppmann [ at ]


Snow depth on sea ice is an essential state variable of the polar climate system and yet one of the least known and most difficult to characterize parameters of the Arctic and Antarctic sea ice systems. Here, we present a new type of autonomous platform to measure snow depth, air temperature, and barometric pressure on drifting Arctic and Antarctic sea ice. “Snow Buoys” are designed to withstand the harshest environmental conditions and to deliver high and consistent data quality with minimal impact on the surface. Our current dataset consists of 79 time series (47 Arctic, 32 Antarctic) since 2013, many of which cover entire seasonal cycles and with individual observation periods of up to 3 years. In addition to a detailed introduction of the platform itself, we describe the processing of the publicly available (near real time) data and discuss limitations. First scientific results reveal characteristic regional differences in the annual cycle of snow depth: in the Weddell Sea, annual net snow accumulation ranged from 0.2 to 0.9 m (mean 0.34 m) with some regions accumulating snow in all months. On Arctic sea ice, the seasonal cycle was more pronounced, showing accumulation from synoptic events mostly between August and April and maxima in autumn. Strongest ablation was observed in June and July, and consistently the entire snow cover melted during summer. Arctic air temperature measurements revealed several above-freezing temperature events in winter that likely impacted snow stratigraphy and thus preconditioned the subsequent spring snow cover. The ongoing Snow Buoy program will be the basis of many future studies and is expected to significantly advance our understanding of snow on sea ice, also providing invaluable in situ validation data for numerical simulations and remote sensing techniques.

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Helmholtz Cross Cutting Activity (2021-2027)
Research Networks
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DOI 10.3389/fmars.2021.655446

Cite as
Nicolaus, M. , Hoppmann, M. , Arndt, S. , Hendricks, S. , Katlein, C. , Nicolaus, A. , Rossmann, L. , Schiller, M. and Schwegmann, S. (2021): Snow Depth and Air Temperature Seasonality on Sea Ice Derived From Snow Buoy Measurements , Frontiers in Marine Science, 8 . doi: 10.3389/fmars.2021.655446

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