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Snow Megadunes

NSFThis project is funded by NSF OPP grant 0125570


To study the structure and nature of snow megadunes


Ted Scambos is the PI; and Rob Bauer and Terry Haran are collaborators.

Project Summary

Broad, stripe-like accumulation features, termed "megadunes" by early Landsat researchers, were mapped over large regions of the Antarctic using new radar and MODIS images; the new maps revealed the full extent and potential importance of the dunes. Two field seasons of in situ geophysical measurements were undertaken in November through December of 2002 and in January 2004. Results confirm many of the observations made by remote sensing: megadunes occur in regions of near-constant wind flow, where accumulation and mean temperature are very low. Radar profiling shows a windward-advancing structure, with broad areas of near-zero accumulation between dune crests. The interdune areas are exposed for up to two centuries without burial. This results in extreme firn metamorphism due to repeated annual thermal cycling. The primary importance of the dune features is in the effect they may have on snow chemistry; because they are so widespread (covering a California-sized area of the East Antarctic Plateau) it is likely that some ice recovered in deep ice cores was previously firn in a megadune field.

Related Resources

For more information, visit the NSIDC Antarctic Megadunes Web site.

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