”It was for the best, so Nature had no choice but to do it.” – M. Aurelius

Wind is the artist shaping the surface of the Antarctic ice sheet. (Photo: Hendrik Huwald).

Arctic Ocean

During the MOSAIC campaign Cryos Laboratory is investigating the fate of snow on Central Arctic sea ice which is still largely unknown.
In this region, it is relatively windy most of the time. The result is that snow gets often blown away from the point it first fell to the ground. This snow often accumulates in calm areas around pressure ridges or gets drifted into leads.

We are investigating the amount of precipitation and its distribution and the redistribution of snow. In addition to data from detailed snow profile measurements, we have a comprehensive data set of near-ground atmospheric measurements as well as airborne and terrestrial laser scans available to show the snow distribution.

Snow on Arctic sea ice have never been investigated to such an extent before, and this combination of measurements allows to investigate the link of precipitation, snow distribution, wind and snow microstructure to improve our snow cover and atmosphere models.

Princess Elisabeth station, Antarctica

Surface Mass Balance in Eastern Antarctica

The mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet is mainly determined by solid precipitation (snow fall), sublimation, and lateral snow transport by wind as drifting and blowing snow. While large-scale mass balance and surface elevation changes of the ice sheet are well detected by satellites or estimated in complex model simulations, local in-situ measurements are rather sparse. Our objective is to acquire ground-truth data for studying the involved physical processes as well as producing a data set for validating model output and remotely sensed data. With a particular focus on the measurement of drifting and blowing snow and its accumulation and erosion patters, we conduct related measurements of snow transport by wind, surface elevation changes and associated surface roughness and topography. Key instruments are snow particle counters, sonic anemometers, and infra-red gas analyzers (eddy covariance systems) for the characterization of atmospheric turbulence and sensible and latent heat fluxes, as well as terrestrial laser scanning and drone-based photogrammetry. Meteorological and snow property measurements complete the suite of observations. Combining these ground-based measurements with Radar and Lidar-based data of solid precipitation (LTE), this project aims at understanding the complex processes of surface and mass changes in Antarctica. Results are used in numerical models and simulations in an attempt to estimate continental-scale mass balance in the context of climate change and possible consequences for the southern hemisphere and global climate and for sea level rise. CRYOS started its measurements and research during the austral summer season 2016/17 at the Princes Elisabeth station with the support of its partner, the International Polar Foundation (IPF), and has been back every season since.

Antarctic sea ice