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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 10, issue 4
The Cryosphere, 10, 1739-1752, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-10-1739-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Special issue: Mass balance of the Greenland Ice Sheet

The Cryosphere, 10, 1739-1752, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-10-1739-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 11 Aug 2016

Research article | 11 Aug 2016

Annual Greenland accumulation rates (2009–2012) from airborne snow radar

Lora S. Koenig1, Alvaro Ivanoff2, Patrick M. Alexander3, Joseph A. MacGregor4, Xavier Fettweis5, Ben Panzer6, John D. Paden6, Richard R. Forster7, Indrani Das8, Joesph R. McConnell9, Marco Tedesco3,9, Carl Leuschen6, and Prasad Gogineni6 Lora S. Koenig et al.
  • 1National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 2ADNET Systems, Inc., Bethesda, MD, USA
  • 3NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, NY, USA
  • 4Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory (Code 615), NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA
  • 5Department of Geography, University of Liège, Belgium
  • 6Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, USA
  • 7Department of Geography, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA
  • 8Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
  • 9Division of Hydrologic Science, Desert Research Institute, NV, USA

Abstract. Contemporary climate warming over the Arctic is accelerating mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet through increasing surface melt, emphasizing the need to closely monitor its surface mass balance in order to improve sea-level rise predictions. Snow accumulation is the largest component of the ice sheet's surface mass balance, but in situ observations thereof are inherently sparse and models are difficult to evaluate at large scales. Here, we quantify recent Greenland accumulation rates using ultra-wideband (2–6.5GHz) airborne snow radar data collected as part of NASA's Operation IceBridge between 2009 and 2012. We use a semiautomated method to trace the observed radiostratigraphy and then derive annual net accumulation rates for 2009–2012. The uncertainty in these radar-derived accumulation rates is on average 14%. A comparison of the radar-derived accumulation rates and contemporaneous ice cores shows that snow radar captures both the annual and long-term mean accumulation rate accurately. A comparison with outputs from a regional climate model (MAR) shows that this model matches radar-derived accumulation rates in the ice sheet interior but produces higher values over southeastern Greenland. Our results demonstrate that snow radar can efficiently and accurately map patterns of snow accumulation across an ice sheet and that it is valuable for evaluating the accuracy of surface mass balance models.

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Contemporary climate warming over the Arctic is accelerating mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet through increasing surface melt, emphasizing the need to closely monitor surface mass balance in order to improve sea-level rise predictions. Here, we quantify the net annual accumulation over the Greenland Ice Sheet, which comprises the largest component of surface mass balance, at a higher spatial resolution than currently available using high-resolution, airborne-radar data.
Contemporary climate warming over the Arctic is accelerating mass loss from the Greenland Ice...
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