Faceted crystal formation in the northeast Greenland low-accumulation region

Konrad Steffen, Waleed Abdalati, Isabelle Sherjal
1999 Journal of Glaciology  
Snow-pit analysis in the tow-accumulation region in northeast Greenland indicated a mean annual accumulation of 12 ± 1.6 cm. It also revealed numerous faceted layers that were not related to the summer horizon of previous years. In general, the faceted crystals were found under a wind crust. These crusts appear to originate during the winter. Snow- and air-temperature data from automatic weather stations suggest that the katabatic storms are responsible for the formation of the wind crusts and
more » ... he faceted layers. Frequent, abrupt temperature changes up to 30°C were observed within two days, due to turbulent mixing of cold-air inversions. The near-surface air-temperature variations are correlated with wind speed, the latter leading the former by 6–9 hours for increasing wind, and 1–4 hours for decreasing wind. Because of low accumulation, katabatic storms affect the same snow surface for several months, causing repealed air-temperature fluctuations. This leads to strong vapor-pressure gradients and faceted crystal growth in the top snow layer. On average we found two faceted layers (in addition to the summer layer) per year for a 4 year record. In addition to its climatological significance in the snow record, the formation of these layers is especially important to understand for the interpretation of microwave satellite observations of the firn.
doi:10.3189/s002214300000304x fatcat:mcwcvveie5c65n3ymrszqhzlp4