Collaborative Research: Characteristics of Snow Megadunes and Their Potential Effect on Ice Core Interpretation
This award supports a program of field surveys of an area within the large, well-developed megadune field southeast of Vostok station. The objectives are to determine the physical characteristics of the firn across the dunes, including typical climate indicators such as stable isotopes and major chemical species, and to install instruments to measure the time variation of near-surface wind and temperature with depth, to test and refine hypotheses for megadune formation. Field study will consist of surface snowpit and shallow core sampling, ground penetrating radar (GPR) profiling, GPS topographic and ice motion surveys, AWS installation, accumulation/ ablation measurements, subsurface temperature, and firn permeability studies. Field work in two successive seasons is proposed. Continent-wide remote sensing studies of the dunes will be continued, using the new group of instruments that are now, or will shortly be available (e.g., MODIS, MISR, GLAS, AMSR). The earlier study of topographic, passive microwave, and SAR characteristics will be extended, with the intent of determining the relationships of dune amplitude and wavelength to climate parameters, and further development of models of dune formation. Diffusion, ventilation, and vapor transport processes within the dune firn will be modeled as well. A robust program of outreach is planned and reporting to inform both the public and scientists of the fundamental in-situ and remote sensing characteristics of these uniquely Antarctic features will be an important part of the work. Because of their extreme nature, their broad extent, and their potential impact on the climate record, it is important to improve our current understanding of these. Megadunes are a manifestation of an extreme terrestrial climate and may provide insight on past terrestrial climate, or to processes active on other planets. Megadunes are likely to represent an end-member in firn diagenesis, and as such, may have much to teach us about the processes involved.
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