03 Feb 2023
 | 03 Feb 2023

Thermal Conductivity of Snow on Arctic Sea Ice

Amy R. Macfarlane, Henning Löwe, Lucille Gimenes, David N. Wagner, Ruzica Dadic, Rafael Ottersberg, Stefan Hämmerle, and Martin Schneebeli

Abstract. Snow significantly impacts the seasonal growth of Arctic sea ice due to its thermally insulating properties. Various measurements and parametrizations of thermal properties exist, but an assessment of the entire seasonal evolution of thermal conductivity and snow resistance is hitherto lacking. Using the comprehensive snow data set from the MOSAiC expedition, we have evaluated for the first time the seasonal evolution of the snow's thermal conductivity and thermal resistance on different ice ages (leads, first and second-year ice) and topographic features (ridges). Combining different measurement parametrizations and assessing the robustness against spatial variability, we infer and quantify a hitherto undocumented feature in the seasonal dynamics of snow on sea ice. We observe an increase in thermal conductivity up to March and a decrease thereafter, both on first-year and second-year ice before the melt period started. Since a similar non-monotonic behaviour is extracted for the snow depth, the thermal resistance of snow on level sea ice remains approximately constant with a value of 515 ± 404 m2 K W−1 on first-year ice and 660 ± 475m2 K W−1 on second-year ice. We found approximately three times higher thermal resistance on ridges (1411 ± 910 m2 K W−1). Our findings are that the micropenetrometer-derived thermal conductivities give accurate values, and confirm that spatial variability of the snow cover is vertically and horizontally large. The implications of our findings for Arctic sea ice are discussed.

Amy R. Macfarlane et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-83', Anonymous Referee #1, 16 Feb 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-83', Anonymous Referee #2, 04 Apr 2023

Amy R. Macfarlane et al.

Amy R. Macfarlane et al.


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Latest update: 26 Sep 2023
Short summary
Snow on sea ice is highly insulating and inhibits sea ice growth in winter. We measured the thermal conductivity of snow for one complete winter season for the first time on Arctic sea ice. We found spatial variability to be extremely high and temporal variability to follow a surprising trend: an increase in thermal conductivity until March and a decrease thereafter. We discuss the possible reasons for this trend.