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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 12, issue 6 | Copyright
The Cryosphere, 12, 1867-1886, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 05 Jun 2018

Research article | 05 Jun 2018

Snow depth on Arctic sea ice from historical in situ data

Elena V. Shalina1,2 and Stein Sandven3 Elena V. Shalina and Stein Sandven
  • 1Nansen International Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre, St.Petersburg, 199034, Russia
  • 2St. Petersburg State University. Institute of Earth Sciences, St.Petersburg, 199034, Russia
  • 3Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, 5006 Bergen, Norway

Abstract. The snow data from the Soviet airborne expeditions Sever in the Arctic collected over several decades in March, April and May have been analyzed in this study. The Sever data included more measurements and covered a much wider area, particularly in the Eurasian marginal seas (Kara Sea, Laptev Sea, East Siberian Sea and Chukchi Sea), compared to the Soviet North Pole drifting stations. The latter collected data mainly in the central part of the Arctic Basin. The following snow parameters have been analyzed: average snow depth on the level ice (undisturbed snow) height and area of sastrugi, depth of snow dunes attached to ice ridges and depth of snow on hummocks. In the 1970s–1980s, in the central Arctic, the average depth of undisturbed snow was 21.2cm, the depth of sastrugi (that occupied about 30% of the ice surface) was 36.2cm and the average depth of snow near hummocks and ridges was about 65cm. For the marginal seas, the average depth of undisturbed snow on the level ice varied from 9.8cm in the Laptev Sea to 15.3cm in the East Siberian Sea, which had a larger fraction of multiyear ice. In the marginal seas the spatial variability of snow depth was characterized by standard deviation varying between 66 and 100%. The average height of sastrugi varied from 23cm to about 32cm with standard deviation between 50 and 56%. The average area covered by sastrugi in the marginal seas was estimated to be 36.5% of the total ice area where sastrugi were observed. The main result of the study is a new snow depth climatology for the late winter using data from both the Sever expeditions and the North Pole drifting stations. The snow load on the ice observed by Sever expeditions has been described as a combination of the depth of undisturbed snow on the level ice and snow depth of sastrugi weighted in proportion to the sastrugi area. The height of snow accumulated near the ice ridges was not included in the calculations because there are no estimates of the area covered by those features from the Sever expeditions. The effect of not including that data can lead to some underestimation of the average snow depth. The new climatology refines the description of snow depth in the central Arctic compared to the results by Warren et al. (1999) and provides additional detailed data in the marginal seas. The snow depth climatology is based on 94% Sever data and 6% North Pole data. The new climatology shows lower snow depth in the central Arctic comparing to Warren climatology and more detailed data in the Eurasian seas.

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Short summary
In this paper we analyze snow data from Soviet airborne expeditions, Sever, which operated in late winter 1959-1986, in the Arctic and made snow measurements on the ice around plane landing sites. The snow measurements were made on the multiyear ice in the central Arctic and on the first-year ice in the Eurasian seas in the areas for which snow characteristics are poorly described in the literature. The main goal of this study is to produce an improved data set of snow depth on the sea ice.
In this paper we analyze snow data from Soviet airborne expeditions, Sever, which operated in...