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Snow on sea ice

Polarstern in sea ice (covered by snow)
Photo: Marcel Nicolaus (AWI)

Most of the Arctic and Antarctic sea ice is covered with sea ice most of the year. As a consequence, snow on sea ice plays a major role for the interaction of atmosphere, sea ice, and ocean. In particular these interactions are the exchange (transport) of energy, the radiation budget, surface properties (e.g. most relevant for remote-sensing data analyses), and the fresh-water and mass budgets of sea ice. Physical properties of snow on sea ice are highly variable in time (diurnal cycles and seasonal changes) and space (on single floes and over large distances). Snow properties are significantly different when comparing Arctic and Antarctic sea ice.

Our work on snow on sea ice covers a broad range of aspects. The large-scale distribution and the seasonal variability of snow thickness is still one of the greatest unknowns in sea-ice research. Hence, we are working on improving and developing observational methods for snow-thickness retrievals. Another unique feature of snow is its ability to reflect a major fraction of solar irradiance back to the surface. This is an important aspect for our studies of the energy budget of sea ice, including various measurements of surface albedo and light transmittance through snow and sea ice. Our numerical simulations are used to analyze the role of snow for sea ice, e.g. describing fresh-water transports or accumulation and melting.


 

Photos: Marcel Nicolaus, AWI


 
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