Articles | Volume 10, issue 3
Research article
21 Jun 2016
Research article |  | 21 Jun 2016

Development and calibration of an automatic spectral albedometer to estimate near-surface snow SSA time series

Ghislain Picard, Quentin Libois, Laurent Arnaud, Gauthier Verin, and Marie Dumont

Abstract. Spectral albedo of the snow surface in the visible/near-infrared range has been measured for 3 years by an automatic spectral radiometer installed at Dome C (75° S, 123° E) in Antarctica in order to retrieve the specific surface area (SSA) of superficial snow. This study focuses on the uncertainties of the SSA retrieval due to instrumental and data processing limitations. We find that when the solar zenith angle is high, the main source of uncertainties is the imperfect angular response of the light collectors. This imperfection introduces a small spurious wavelength-dependent trend in the albedo spectra which greatly affects the SSA retrieval. By modeling this effect, we show that for typical snow and illumination conditions encountered at Dome C, retrieving SSA with an accuracy better than 15 % (our target) requires the difference of response between 400 and 1100 nm to not exceed 2 %. Such a small difference can be achieved only by (i) a careful design of the collectors, (ii) an ad hoc correction of the spectra using the actual measured angular response of the collectors, and (iii) for solar zenith angles less than 75°. The 3-year time series of retrieved SSA features a 3-fold decrease every summer which is significantly larger than the estimated uncertainties. This highlights the high dynamics of near-surface SSA at Dome C.

Short summary
Albedo of snow surfaces depends on snow grain size. By measuring albedo during 3 years at Dome C in Antarctica with an automatic spectroradiometer, we were able to monitor the snow specific surface area and show an overall growth of the grains in spring and summer followed by an accumulation of small-grained snow from mid-summer. This study focuses on the uncertainties due to the spectroradiometer and concludes that the observed variations are significant with respect to the precision.