Variability of Winter Snow Properties on Different Spatial Scales in the Weddell Sea

Stefanie Arndt, Stephan Paul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The snow cover on Antarctic sea ice persists during most of the year, contributing significantly to the sea ice mass budget due to comprehensive seasonal transition processes within the snowpack as well as at the snow/ice interface. Consequently, snow on sea ice varies not only in depth but also in particular in its physical characteristics such as snow density and stratigraphy. In order to quantify the heterogeneous nature of the Antarctic snowpack on different spatial scales, that is, small (<10 m), floe-size (1-2 km), and regional (seasonal/perennial ice) scales, we present here a case study of snow analyses in the Weddell Sea in austral winter 2013. The resulting high variability of snow parameters in the basal snow layer reveals the need to distinguish between seasonal and perennial ice regimes, when retrieving, for example, snow depth using satellite microwave radiometry. Considering the full vertical snow column, a more detailed distinction of the perennial sea ice regime into, for example, more ice classes is suggested in order to represent the high variability range. For the internal snowpack variability, however, we identify the grain size variability as the main driver, while snow density variations can be neglected. Moving from regional to floe-size scales, a similar variability range of the studied snow properties is found, suggesting that a large number of snow samples on a few floes is more crucial than covering a large region with fewer floe-scale measurements. The spatiotemporally heterogeneous variability in snow accumulation, redistribution, and metamorphism is, however, too large to upscale the given findings beyond regional scale.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8862-8876
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • sea ice
  • seasonal processes
  • snow
  • snow metamorphism
  • snow stratigraphy


Dive into the research topics of 'Variability of Winter Snow Properties on Different Spatial Scales in the Weddell Sea'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this