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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-51
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-51
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 20 Mar 2020

Submitted as: research article | 20 Mar 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Temporal and spatial variability in surface roughness and accumulation rate around 88° S from repeat airborne geophysical surveys

Michael Studinger1, Brooke C. Medley1, Kelly M. Brunt2,1, Kimberly A. Casey3,1, Nathan T. Kurtz1, Serdar S. Manizade4,5, Thomas A. Neumann1, and Thomas B. Overly2,1 Michael Studinger et al.
  • 1NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA
  • 2Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC), University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA
  • 3U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA, USA
  • 4Amentum Services Inc., Wallops Island, VA, USA
  • 5NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, VA, USA

Abstract. We use repeat high-resolution airborne geophysical data consisting of laser altimetry, snow and Ku-band radar and optical imagery acquired in 2014, 2016 and 2017 to analyze the spatial and temporal variability in surface roughness, slope, wind deposition, and snow accumulation at 88° S as this is a bias validation site for ICESat-2 and may be a potential validation site for CryoSat-2. We find significant small–scale variability (< 10 km) in snow accumulation based on the snow radar subsurface stratigraphy, indicating areas of strong wind redistribution are prevalent at 88° S. In general, highs in snow accumulation rate correspond with topographic lows resulting in a negative correlation coefficient of r2 = −0.32 between accumulation rate and MSWD (Mean Slope in the mean Wind Direction). This relationship is strongest in areas where the dominant wind direction is parallel to the survey profile, which is expected as the geophysical surveys only capture a two-dimensional cross section of snow redistribution. Variability in snow accumulation appears to correlate with variability in MSWD. The correlation coefficient between the standard deviations of accumulation rate and MSWD is r2 = 0.48 indicating a stronger link between the standard deviations than the actual parameters. Our analysis shows that there is no simple relationship between surface slope, wind direction and snow accumulation rates for the entire survey area. We find high variability in surface roughness derived from laser altimetry measurements on length–scales smaller than 10 km, sometimes with very distinct and sharp transitions. Some areas also show significant temporal variability over the course of the 3 survey years. Ultimately, there is no statistically significant slope–independent relationship between surface roughness and accumulation rates within our survey area. The observed correspondence between the small–scale temporal and spatial variability in surface roughness and backscatter, as evidenced by Ku-band radar signal strength retrievals, will make it difficult to develop elevation bias corrections for radar altimeter retrieval algorithms.

Michael Studinger et al.

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Michael Studinger et al.

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Short summary
We use repeat airborne geophysical data consisting of laser altimetry, snow and Ku-band radar and optical imagery to analyze the spatial and temporal variability in surface roughness, slope, wind deposition, and snow accumulation at 88° S. We find small–scale variability in snow accumulation based on the snow radar subsurface layering, indicating areas of strong wind redistribution are prevalent at 88° S. There is no slope–independent relationship between surface roughness and accumulation.
We use repeat airborne geophysical data consisting of laser altimetry, snow and Ku-band radar...
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