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Journal Article

Effects of subgrid-scale snow thickness variability on radiative transfer in sea ice


Abraham,  Carsten
Climate Dynamics, The Atmosphere in the Earth System, MPI for Meteorology, Max Planck Society;

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Abraham, C., Stecher, N., Monahan, A., & Michel, C. (2015). Effects of subgrid-scale snow thickness variability on radiative transfer in sea ice. Journal of Geophysical Research - Oceans, 120, 5597-5614. doi:10.1002/2015JC010741.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0028-9317-A
Snow is a principal factor in controlling heat and light fluxes through sea ice. With the goal of improving radiative and heat flux estimates through sea ice in regional and global models without the need of detailed snow property descriptions, a new parameterization including subgrid-scale snow thickness variability is presented. One-parameter snow thickness distributions depending only on the gridbox-mean snow thickness are introduced resulting in analytical solutions for the fluxes of heat and light through the snow layer. As the snowpack melts, these snow thickness distributions ensure a smooth seasonal transition of the light field under sea ice. Spatially homogenous melting applied to an inhomogeneous distribution of snow thicknesses allows the appearance of bare sea ice areas and melt ponds before all snow has melted. In comparison to uniform-thickness snow used in previous models, the bias in the under sea-ice light field is halved with this parameterization. Model results from a one-dimensional ocean turbulence model coupled with a thermodynamic sea ice model are compared to observations near Resolute in the Canadian High Arctic. The simulations show substantial improvements not only to the light field at the sea ice base which will affect ice algal growth but also to the sea ice and seasonal snowpack evolution. During melting periods, the snowpack can survive longer while sea ice thickness starts to reduce earlier. © 2015. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.