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Insight into the Thermodynamic Structure of Blowing-Snow Layers in Antarctica...

Palm, S. P., Y. Yang, V. Kayetha, and J. P. Nicolas (2018), Insight into the Thermodynamic Structure of Blowing-Snow Layers in Antarctica from Dropsonde and CALIPSO Measurements, J. Appl. Meteor. Climat., 57, 2733-2748, doi:10.1175/JAMC-D-18-0082.1.

Blowing snow is a frequent and widespread phenomenon over most of Antarctica. The transport and sublimation of blowing snow are important for the mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet, and the latter is a major contributor to the hydrological cycle in high-latitude regions. Although much is known about blowing snow from surface observations, knowledge of the thermodynamic structure of deep (.50 m) blowing-snow layers is lacking. Here, dropsonde measurements are used to investigate the temperature, moisture, and wind structure of deep blowing-snow layers over Antarctica. The temperature lapse rate within the blowing-snow layer is at times close to dry adiabatic and is on average between dry and moist adiabatic. Initiation of blowing snow causes the surface temperature to increase to a degree proportional to the depth of the blowing-snow layer. The relative humidity with respect to ice is generally largest near the surface (but less than 100%) and decreases with height, reaching a minimum near the top of the layer. These findings are at odds with the generally accepted theory that blowing-snow sublimation will cool and eventually saturate the layer. The observations support the conclusion that high levels of wind-shear-induced turbulence cause mixing and entrainment of warmer air from above the blowing-snow layer, which suppresses humidity and produces the observed well-mixed temperature structure within the layer. The results may have important consequences for understanding the mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet and the moisture budget of the atmosphere in high latitudes.

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