Snowdrift effect on snow deposition: Insights from a comparison of a snow pit profile and meteorological observations in east Antarctica

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A high-frequency and precise ultrasonic sounder was used to monitor precipitated/deposited and drift snow events over a 3-year period (17 January 2005 to 4 January 2008) at the Eagle automatic weather station site, inland Antarctica. Ion species and oxygen isotope ratios were also generated from a snow pit below the sensor. These accumulation and snowdrift events were used to examine the synchronism with seasonal variations of δ 18O and ion species, providing an opportunity to assess the snowdrift effect in typical Antarctic inland conditions. There were up to 1-year differences for this 3-year-long snow pit between the traditional dating method and ultrasonic records. This difference implies that in areas with low accumulation or high wind, the snowdrift effect can induce abnormal disturbances on snow deposition. The snowdrift effect should be seriously taken into account for high-resolution dating of ice cores and estimation of surface mass balance, especially when the morphology of most Antarctic inland areas is similar to that of the Eagle site.

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We are very grateful to Dr. H.C. Steen-Larsen for the kind help with both language and science. This study was supported by the National Basic Research Program of China (Grant No. 2013CBA01804), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41425003 & 41601070), the State Oceanic Administration of the People’s Republic of China Project on Climate in Polar Regions (Grant No. CHINARE2016-2020) and Climate Change Estimation Program by China Meteorological Administration (Grant No. CCSF201332).

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Correspondence to MingHu Ding or Tong Zhang.

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Ding, M., Zhang, T., Xiao, C. et al. Snowdrift effect on snow deposition: Insights from a comparison of a snow pit profile and meteorological observations in east Antarctica. Sci. China Earth Sci. 60, 672–685 (2017) doi:10.1007/s11430-016-0008-4

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  • Snowdrift process
  • Air-snow interaction
  • Ice core dating
  • Ultrasonic sounder
  • Post depositional process