Extreme events of snow grain size increase in East Antarctica and their relationship with meteorological conditions

Stefanini, Claudio; Macelloni, Giovanni; Leduc-Leballeur, Marion; Favier, Vincent; Pohl, Benjamin; Picard, Ghislain

This study explores the seasonal variations in snow grain size on the East Antarctic Plateau, where dry metamorphism occurs, by using microwave radiometer observations from 2000 to 2022. Local meteorological conditions and large-scale atmospheric phenomena have been considered in order to explain some peculiar changes in the snow grains. We find that the highest ice divide is the region with the largest grain size in the summer, mainly because the wind speed is low. Moreover, some extreme grain size values with respect to the average (over inline-formula+3σ) were identified. In these cases, the ERA5 reanalysis revealed a high-pressure blocking close to the onsets of the summer increase in the grain size. It channels moisture intrusions from the mid-latitudes, through atmospheric rivers that cause major snowfall events over the plateau. If conditions of weak wind and low temperature occur during the following weeks, dry snow metamorphism is facilitated, leading to grain growth. This determines anomalous high maximums of the snow grain size at the end of summer. These phenomena confirm the importance of moisture intrusion events in East Antarctica and their impact on the physical properties of the ice sheet surface, with a co-occurrence of atmospheric rivers and seasonal changes in the grain size with a significance of over 95 %.

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Stefanini, Claudio / Macelloni, Giovanni / Leduc-Leballeur, Marion / et al: Extreme events of snow grain size increase in East Antarctica and their relationship with meteorological conditions. 2024. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Claudio Stefanini et al.

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