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

Studinger, Michael; Medley, Brooke C.; Brunt, Kelly M.; Casey, Kimberly A.; Kurtz, Nathan T.; Manizade, Serdar S.; Neumann, Thomas A.; Overly, Thomas B.

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 88inline-formula S, an elevation bias validation site for ICESat-2 and potential validation site for CryoSat-2. We find significant small-scale variability (inline-formula<10 km) in snow accumulation based on the snow radar subsurface stratigraphy, indicating areas of strong wind redistribution are prevalent at 88inline-formula S. In general, highs in snow accumulation rate correspond with topographic lows, resulting in a negative correlation coefficient of inline-formula M5inlinescrollmathml r normal 2 = - normal 0.32 54pt14ptsvg-formulamathimg5ed32971497199b4f64d23960fca493d tc-14-3287-2020-ie00001.svg54pt14pttc-14-3287-2020-ie00001.png 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 inline-formular2=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 overall 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.

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Studinger, Michael / Medley, Brooke C. / Brunt, Kelly M. / et al: Temporal and spatial variability in surface roughness and accumulation rate around 88° S from repeat airborne geophysical surveys. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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