Spatial and temporal variability in the snowpack of a High Arctic ice cap: implications for mass-change measurements

Christina Bell, Douglas Watson Fraser Mair, David Burgess, Martin J. Sharp, Michael Demuth, Fiona G.L. Cawkwell, Robert George Bingham, Jemma L. Wadham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Interpretation of ice mass elevation changes observed by satellite altimetry demands quantification of the proportion of elevation change which is attributable to variations in firn densification. Detailed stratigraphic logging of snowpack structure and density was carried out at ~1 km intervals along a 47 km transect on Devon Ice Cap, Canada, in spring (pre-melt) and autumn (during/after melt) 2004 and 2006 to characterize seasonal snowpack variability across the full range of snow facies. Simultaneous meteorological measurements were gathered. Spring (pre-melt) snowpacks show low variability over large spatial scales, with low-magnitude changes in density. The end-of-summer/autumn density profiles show high variability in both 2004 and 2006, with vastly different melt regimes generating dissimilar patterns of ice-layer formation over the two melt seasons. Dye-tracing experiments from spring to autumn 2006 reveal that vertical and horizontal distribution of meltwater flow within and below the annual snowpack is strongly affected by the pre-existing, often subtle stratigraphic interfaces in the snowpack, rather than its bulk properties. Strong interannual variability suggests that using a simple relationship between air temperature, elevation and snowpack densification to derive mass change from measurements of elevation change across High Arctic ice caps may be misguided. Melt timing and duration are important extrinsic factors governing snowpack densification and ice-layer formation in summer, rather than averaged air temperatures
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-170
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of Glaciology
Volume48
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2008

Fingerprint

ice cap
snowpack
melt
autumn
ice
air temperature
firn
satellite altimetry
summer
meltwater
dye
transect
snow

Keywords

  • glaciology
  • cryosphere
  • Arctic
  • climate change
  • remote sensing
  • internal accumulation
  • percolation zone
  • greenland
  • sheet
  • surface
  • firn
  • melt
  • model
  • stratigraphy
  • meltwater

Cite this

Bell, C., Mair, D. W. F., Burgess, D., Sharp, M. J., Demuth, M., Cawkwell, F. G. L., ... Wadham, J. L. (2008). Spatial and temporal variability in the snowpack of a High Arctic ice cap: implications for mass-change measurements. Annals of Glaciology, 48, 159-170. https://doi.org/10.3189/172756408784700725

Spatial and temporal variability in the snowpack of a High Arctic ice cap : implications for mass-change measurements. / Bell, Christina; Mair, Douglas Watson Fraser; Burgess, David; Sharp, Martin J.; Demuth, Michael; Cawkwell, Fiona G.L.; Bingham, Robert George; Wadham, Jemma L.

In: Annals of Glaciology, Vol. 48, 31.01.2008, p. 159-170.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Bell, C, Mair, DWF, Burgess, D, Sharp, MJ, Demuth, M, Cawkwell, FGL, Bingham, RG & Wadham, JL 2008, 'Spatial and temporal variability in the snowpack of a High Arctic ice cap: implications for mass-change measurements' Annals of Glaciology, vol. 48, pp. 159-170. https://doi.org/10.3189/172756408784700725
Bell, Christina ; Mair, Douglas Watson Fraser ; Burgess, David ; Sharp, Martin J. ; Demuth, Michael ; Cawkwell, Fiona G.L. ; Bingham, Robert George ; Wadham, Jemma L. / Spatial and temporal variability in the snowpack of a High Arctic ice cap : implications for mass-change measurements. In: Annals of Glaciology. 2008 ; Vol. 48. pp. 159-170.
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