Articles | Volume 7, issue 4
Research article
12 Aug 2013
Research article |  | 12 Aug 2013

Snowdrift modelling for the Vestfonna ice cap, north-eastern Svalbard

T. Sauter, M. Möller, R. Finkelnburg, M. Grabiec, D. Scherer, and C. Schneider

Abstract. The redistribution of snow by drifting and blowing snow frequently leads to an inhomogeneous snow mass distribution on larger ice caps. Together with the thermodynamic impact of drifting snow sublimation on the lower atmospheric boundary layer, these processes affect the glacier surface mass balance. This study provides a first quantification of snowdrift and sublimation of blowing and drifting snow on the Vestfonna ice cap (Svalbard) by using the specifically designed snow2blow snowdrift model. The model is forced by atmospheric fields from the Polar Weather Research and Forecasting model and resolves processes on a spatial resolution of 250 m. The model is applied to the Vestfonna ice cap for the accumulation period 2008/2009. Comparison with radio-echo soundings and snow-pit measurements show that important local-scale processes are resolved by the model and the overall snow accumulation pattern is reproduced. The findings indicate that there is a significant redistribution of snow mass from the interior of the ice cap to the surrounding areas and ice slopes. Drifting snow sublimation of suspended snow is found to be stronger during spring. It is concluded that the redistribution process is strong enough to have a significant impact on glacier mass balance.