The annual cycle of snowfall at Summit, Greenland
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The annual cycle of snowfall at Summit, Greenland

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  • Source:
    Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, 120(13), 6654-6668.
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  • Description:
    While snow accumulation over central Greenland has been extensively studied, interannual variability of snowfall in the region is not well understood due to a dearth of observations. The Integrated Characterization of Energy, Clouds, Atmospheric state and Precipitation at Summit (ICECAPS) project at Summit, Greenland, offers a unique, ground-based opportunity to study precipitation in central Greenland where the surface mass balance is positive. Combining data from a Precipitation Occurrence Sensor System (POSS), Millimeter-wavelength Cloud Radar (MMCR), and snow stake field, the annual cycle of precipitation at Summit is examined. Average daily snowfall is higher by a factor of 3 from June to October compared to November to May, while surface height change is only higher by 15% during the same timeframes. This reduced variability in surface height is explained by the seasonally varying nature of latent heat flux, compaction, and wind contributions. The ICECAPS remote sensors and stake field measurements do not agree as far as total annual water equivalent. This discrepancy is likely due to a low bias in the POSS and MMCR snowfall retrievals for Summit. To further examine the seasonal cycle, snowfall measurements by the POSS were linked to local meteorological parameters, including wind direction, liquid water path (LWP), 2m temperature, and precipitable water vapor. An observed wind direction and moisture dependence are consistent with snowfall being linked to pulses of moist air that originate over nearby, ice-free ocean, a resource that becomes more readily available in summertime as the winter sea ice retreats. LWP is shown to have little relationship to snowfall, indicating that ice-phase precipitation processes are quite important for snowfall at Summit.
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