Spatial and temporal variability of snow accumulation in East Antarctica from traverse data

Massimo Frezzotti, Michel Pourchet, Onelio Flora, Stefano Gandolfi, Michel Gay, Stefano Urbini, Christian Vincent, Silvia Becagli, Roberto Gragnani, Marco Proposito, Mirko Severi, Rita Traversi, Roberto Udisti, Michel Fily

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Recent snow accumulation rate is a key quantity for ice-core and mass-balance studies. Several accumulation measurement methods (stake farm, fin core, snow-radar profiling, surface morphology, remote sensing) were used, compared and integrated at eight sites along a transect from Terra Nova Bay to Dome C, East Antarctica, to provide information about the spatial and temporal variability of snow accumulation. Thirty-nine cores were dated by identifying tritium/β marker levels (1965-66) and non-sea-salt (nss) SO42-spikes of the Tambora (Indonesia) volcanic event (1816) in order to provide information on temporal variability. Cores were linked by snow radar and global positioning system surveys to provide detailed information on spatial variability in snow accumulation. Stake-farm and ice-core accumulation rates are observed to differ significantly, but isochrones (snow radar) correlate well with ice-core derived accumulation. The accumulation/ablation pattern from stake measurements suggests that the annual local noise (metre scale) in snow accumulation can approach 2 years of ablation and more than four times the average annual accumulation, with no accumulation or ablation for a 5 year period in up to 40% of cases. The spatial variability of snow accumulation at the kilometre scale is one order of magnitude higher than temporal variability at the multi-decadal/secular scale. Stake measurements and firn cores at Dome C confirm an approximate 30% increase in accumulation over the last two centuries, with respect to the average over the last 5000 years.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113 - 124
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number172
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth-Surface Processes

Cite this

Frezzotti, M., Pourchet, M., Flora, O., Gandolfi, S., Gay, M., Urbini, S., Vincent, C., Becagli, S., Gragnani, R., Proposito, M., Severi, M., Traversi, R., Udisti, R., & Fily, M. (2005). Spatial and temporal variability of snow accumulation in East Antarctica from traverse data. Journal of Glaciology, 51(172), 113 - 124.