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Geoscientific Model Development An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/gmd-2019-97
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/gmd-2019-97
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: model description paper 14 May 2019

Submitted as: model description paper | 14 May 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of this manuscript was accepted for the journal Geoscientific Model Development (GMD) and is expected to appear here in due course.

Version 1 of a sea ice module for the physics based, detailed, multi-layer SNOWPACK model

Nander Wever1,2,3, Leonard Rossmann4, Nina Maaß5, Katherine C. Leonard1,2,6, Lars Kaleschke4, Marcel Nicolaus4, and Michael Lehning2,3 Nander Wever et al.
  • 1Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 2CRYOS, School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 3WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, Davos, Switzerland
  • 4Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany
  • 5University of Hamburg, Germany
  • 6Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science (CIRES), University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, USA

Abstract. Sea ice is an important component of the global climate system. The presence of a snowpack covering sea ice can strongly modify the thermodynamic behaviour of the sea ice, due to the low thermal conductivity and high albedo of snow. The snowpack can be strongly stratified and change properties (density, water content, grain size and shape) throughout the seasons. Fresh water percolation during snow melt can decrease the salinity of the underlying ice, while flooding of the snow layer by saline ocean water can strongly impact both the ice mass balance and the freezing point of the snow. To capture the complex dynamics from the snowpack, we introduce modifications to the physics-based, multi-layer SNOWPACK model to simulate the snow-sea ice system. This involves modifications to the model thermodynamics and to describe water and salt transport through the snow – sea ice system by coupling the transport equation to the Richards equation. These modifications allow the snow microstructure descriptions developed in the SNOWPACK model to be applied to sea ice conditions as well. Here, we drive the model with data from Snow and Ice Mass-balance Buoys installed in the Weddell Sea in Antarctica. The model is able to simulate the temporal evolution of snow density, grain size and shape and snow wetness. The model simulations show abundant depth hoar layers and melt layers, as well as superimposed ice formation due to flooding and percolation. Gravity drainage of dense brine is underestimated as convective processes are so far neglected. Furthermore, with increasing model complexity, detailed forcing data for the simulations is required, which is difficult to acquire due to limited observations in polar regions.

Nander Wever et al.
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Nander Wever et al.
Nander Wever et al.
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Short summary
Sea ice is an important component of the global climate system. The presence of a snow layer covering sea ice can impact ice mass and energy budgets. The detailed, physics-based, multi-layer snow model SNOWPACK was modified to simulate the snow-sea ice system, providing simulations of the snow microstructure, water percolation and flooding, and superimposed ice formation. The model is applied to in-situ measurements from Snow and Ice Mass-balance Buoys installed in the Antarctic Weddell Sea.
Sea ice is an important component of the global climate system. The presence of a snow layer...
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