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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 07 Dec 2018

Research article | 07 Dec 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

Marked decrease of the near surface snow density retrieved by AMSR-E satellite at Dome C, Antarctica, between 2002 and 2011

Nicolas Champollion1,a, Ghislain Picard1, Laurent Arnaud1, Éric Lefebvre1, Giovanni Macelloni2, Frédérique Rémy3, and Michel Fily1 Nicolas Champollion et al.
  • 1Univ. Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, IRD, Grenoble INP, IGE – UMR 5001, 38000 Grenoble, France
  • 2Institute of Applied Physics / IFAC – CNR, Via Madonna del Piano 10, 50019 Fiorentino, Italy
  • 3UPS/CNRS, Laboratoire d’Étude en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiales (LEGOS) – Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées (OMP), 18 av. Edouard Belin, 31401, Toulouse CEDEX 9, France
  • anow at: Climate Lab – University of Bremen, Celsiusstrasse 2 FVG–M2040, 28359 Bremen, Germany

Abstract. Surface snow density is an important variable for the surface mass balance and energy budget. It evolves according to meteorological conditions, in particular snowfall, wind and temperature, but the physical processes governing atmospheric influence on snow are not fully understood. A reason is that no systematic observation is available on a continent scale. Here, we use the passive microwave observations from AMSR-E satellite to retrieve the surface snow density at Dome C in the East Antarctic Plateau. The retrieval method is based on the difference of surface reflections between horizontally- and vertically-polarised brightness temperatures at 37GHz, highlighted by the computation of the polarisation ratio, which is related to surface snow density. The relationship has been obtained with a microwave emission radiative transfer model (DMRT-ML). The retrieved density, representative of the topmost 3 centimetres of the snowpack, compares well with in situ measurements. The difference between mean in situ measurements and mean retrieved density is 26.2kgm−3, which is within typical in situ measurement uncertainties. We apply the retrieval method to derive the time series over the period 2002–2011. The results show a marked and persistent pluri-annual decrease of about 10kgm−3yr−1, in addition to atmosphere-related seasonal, weekly and daily density variations. This trend is confirmed by independent active microwave observations from ENVISAT and QuickSCAT satellites though the link to the density is more difficult to establish. However, no related pluri-annual changes in meteorological conditions has been found to explain such trend in snow density. Further work concern the extension of the method at the continent scale.

Nicolas Champollion et al.
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Nicolas Champollion et al.
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Short summary
The snow density close to the surface has been retrieved from satellite observations at Dome C in the Antarctic Ice Sheet. It shows a marked decrease between 2002 and 2011 about 10 kg m−3 yr−1. This trend has been confirmed by in situ measurements and other satellite observations without any long-term meteorological evolution has been found. These results have implications for surface mass balance and energy budget.
The snow density close to the surface has been retrieved from satellite observations at Dome C...