Spatially extensive estimates of annual accumulation in the dry snow zone of the Greenland Ice Sheet determined from radar altimetry

Santiago de la Pena, Peter Nienow, Andrew Shepherd, Veit Helm, Douglas Mair, Edward Hanna, Philippe Huybrechts, Q. Guo, Robert Cullen, Duncan Wingham

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Abstract

We present estimates of accumulation rate along a 200 km transect ranging in elevation from 2750 to 3150m in the dry snow zone on the western slope of the Greenland Ice Sheet. An airborne radar altimeter is used to estimate the thickness of annual internal layers and, in conjunction with ground based snow/firn density profiles, annual accumulation rates between 1998 and 2003 are derived. A clear gradient in the thickness of each layer observed by the radar altimeter and in the associated estimates of annual accumulation is seen along the transect, with a 33.6% +/- 16% mean decrease in accumulation from west to east. The observed inter-annual variability is high, with the annual mean accumulation rate estimated at 0.359 m.w.e. yr(-1) (s.d. +/- 0.049 m.w.e. yr(-1)). Mean accumulation rates modelled using meteorological models overestimate our results by 16% on average, but by 32% and 42% in the years 2001 and 2002. The methodology presented here demonstrates the potential to obtain accurate and spatially extensive accumulation rates from radar altimeters in regions of ice sheets where field observations are sparse, and accumulation rates greater than several tens of cm.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-474
Number of pages8
JournalThe Cryosphere
Volume4
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010

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Keywords

  • percolation zone
  • mass-balance
  • runoff
  • model
  • melt
  • line

Cite this

de la Pena, S., Nienow, P., Shepherd, A., Helm, V., Mair, D., Hanna, E., Huybrechts, P., Guo, Q., Cullen, R., & Wingham, D. (2010). Spatially extensive estimates of annual accumulation in the dry snow zone of the Greenland Ice Sheet determined from radar altimetry. The Cryosphere, 4(4), 467-474 . https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-4-467-2010