Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Snow characteristics in Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica

Eija Kanto

Doctoral dissertation, September 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science, Department of Physical Sciences, Division of Geophysics.

Snow cover is very sensitive to climate change and has a large feedback effect on the climate system due to the high albedo. Snow covers almost all surfaces in Antarctica and small changes in snow properties can mean large changes in absorbed radiation. In the ongoing discussion of climatic change, the mass balance of Antarctica has received increasing focus during recent decades, since its reaction to global warming strongly influences sea-level change.

The aim of the present work was to examine the spatial and temporal variations in the physical and chemical characteristics of surface snow and annual accumulation rates in western Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica. The data were collected along a 350-km-long transect from the coast to the plateau during the years 1999-2004 as a part of the Finnish Antarctic Research Programme (FINNARP). The research focused on the most recent annual accumulation in the coastal area.

The results show that the distance from the sea, and the moisture source, was the most predominant factor controlling the variations in both physical (conductivity, grain size, oxygen isotope ratio and accumulation) and chemical snow properties. The sea-salt and sulphur-containing components predominated in the coastal region. The local influences of nunataks and topographic highs were also visible on snow. The variations in all measured properties were wide within single sites mostly due to redistribution by winds and sastrugi topography, which reveals the importance of the spatially representative measurements. The mean accumulations occurred on the ice shelf, in the coastal region and on the plateau: 312 28, 215 43 and 92 25 mm w.e., respectively. Depth hoar layers were usually found under the thin ice crust and were associated with a low dielectric constant and high concentrations of nitrate. Taking into account the vast size of the Antarctic ice sheet and its geographic characteristics, it is important to extend investigation of the distribution of surface snow properties and accumulation to provide well-documented data.

The title page of the publication

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Last updated 01.08.2006

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