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Shallow firn properties and accumulation rates at sites in East Antarctica


As a dynamic, naturally-deposited porous medium, snow exhibits dramatic changes in material properties in response to changing weather conditions on both short and long time scales. At low accumulation polar sites that are too cold for snow melt, the near-surface snow and firn can remain in active contact with the atmosphere for many decades. The Norwegian-US Traverse of East Antarctica, an internationally-coordinated scientific expedition of the International Polar Year 2007-8, was launched to investigate climate and glaciology in East Antarctica. Physical properties of snow and firn were measured in snow pits and from firn cores from sites along the traverse route. In this paper, pit measurements of stratigraphy, density, and permeability are reported along with indications of the accumulation rate at various sites. Permeability shows greater sensitivity to local accumulation rate than does density. These measurements will be combined with remote sensing imagery to extrapolate our results over larger areas of the continent for improved understanding of the links between physical properties of firn and accumulation rate.