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Influence of persistent wind scour on the surface mass balance of Antarctica

Das, Indrani; Bell, Robin E.; Scambos, Ted A.; Wolovick, Michael J.; Creyts, Timothy T.; Studinger, Michael; Frearson, Nicholas P.; Nicolas, Julien P.; Lenaerts, Jan T. M.; van den Broeke, Michiel R.

Accurate quantification of surface snow accumulation over Antarctica is a key constraint for estimates of the Antarctic mass balance, as well as climatic interpretations of ice-core records. Over Antarctica, near-surface winds accelerate down relatively steep surface slopes, eroding and sublimating the snow. This wind scour results in numerous localized regions (<=200 km^2) with reduced surface accumulation. Estimates of Antarctic surface mass balance rely on sparse point measurements or coarse atmospheric models that do not capture these local processes, and overestimate the net mass input in wind-scour zones. Here we combine airborne radar observations of unconformable stratigraphic layers with lidar-derived surface roughness measurements to identify extensive wind-scour zones over Dome A, in the interior of East Antarctica. The scour zones are persistent because they are controlled by bedrock topography. On the basis of our Dome A observations,we develop an empirical model to predict wind-scour zones across the Antarctic continent and find that these zones are predominantly located in East Antarctica. We estimate that ~2.7–6.6% of the surface area of Antarctica has persistent negative net accumulation due to wind scour, which suggests that, across the continent, the snow mass input is overestimated by 11–36:5 Gt yr-1 in present surface-massbalance calculations.

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Published In
Nature Geoscience
Publisher DOI
https://doi.org/10.1038/NGEO1766
Volume
6
Pages
367 - 371
Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
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