14 Jul 2023
 | 14 Jul 2023
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Combined GNSS reflectometry/refractometry for automated and continuous in situ surface mass balance estimation on an Antarctic ice shelf

Ladina Steiner, Holger Schmithüsen, Jens Wickert, and Olaf Eisen

Abstract. Reliable in situ surface mass balance (SMB) estimates in polar regions are scarce due to limited spatial and temporal data availability. This study aims at deriving automated and continuous specific SMB time series for fast moving parts of ice sheets and shelves (flow velocity > 10 m a-1) by developing a combined Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) reflectometry and refractometry (GNSS-RR) method. In situ snow density, snow water equivalent (SWE), and snow deposition or erosion are estimated simultaneously as an average over an area of several square meters and independent on weather conditions. The combined GNSS-RR method is validated and evaluated regarding its applicability on a moving, high latitude ice shelf. A combined GNSS-RR system was therefore installed in November 2021 on the Ekström ice shelf (flow velocity≈150 m a-1) in Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica. Reflected and refracted GNSS observations from the site are post-processed to obtain snow accumulation (deposition and erosion), SWE, and snow density estimates with a 15 min temporal resolution. Results of the first 16 months of data show a high level of agreement with manual and automated reference observations from the same site. Snow accumulation is derived with an uncertainty of around 9 cm, SWE around 40 kg m−2 a−1, and density around 72 kg m−3.

This pilot study forms the base for extending observational networks with GNSS-RR capabilities, in particular in polar regions. Regional climate models, local snow modelling, and extensive remote sensing data products will profit from calibration and validation based on such in situ time series, especially if multiples of such sensors will be deployed over larger regional scales.

Ladina Steiner et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • CC1: 'Comment on tc-2023-89', David Shean, 14 Jul 2023
    • AC3: 'Reply on CC1', Ladina Steiner, 25 Sep 2023
  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2023-89', Ian Brown, 05 Aug 2023
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Ladina Steiner, 25 Sep 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2023-89', Maaria Nordman, 15 Aug 2023
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Ladina Steiner, 25 Sep 2023

Ladina Steiner et al.

Ladina Steiner et al.


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Short summary
The present study illustrates the potential of a combined Global Navigation Satellite System reflectometry and refractometry (GNSS-RR) method for accurate, simultaneous, and continuous estimation of in situ snow accumulation, snow water equivalent, and snow density time series. The combined GNSS-RR method was successfully applied on a fast moving, polar ice shelf. The combined GNSS-RR approach could be highly advantageous for a continuous quantification of ice sheet surface mass balances.