Snow optical properties at Dome C (Concordia), Antarctica; implications for snow emissions and snow chemistry of reactive nitrogen

J. L. France, M. D. King, M. M. Frey, J. Erbland, G. Picard, S. Preunkert, A. MacArthur, J. Savarino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Measurements of e-folding depth, nadir reflectivity and stratigraphy of the snowpack around Concordia station (Dome C, 75.10 degrees S, 123.31 degrees E) were undertaken to determine wavelength dependent coefficients (350 nm to 550 nm) for light scattering and absorption and to calculate potential fluxes (depth-integrated production rates) of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from the snowpack due to nitrate photolysis within the snowpack. The stratigraphy of the top 80 cm of Dome C snowpack generally consists of three main layers:- a surface of soft windpack (not ubiquitous), a hard windpack, and a hoar-like layer beneath the windpack(s). The e-folding depths are similar to 10 cm for the two windpack layers and similar to 20 cm for the hoar-like layer for solar radiation at a wavelength of 400 nm; about a factor 2-4 larger than previous model estimates for South Pole. The absorption cross-section due to impurities in each snowpack layer are consistent with a combination of absorption due to black carbon and HULIS (HU-mic LIke Substances), with amounts of 1-2 ng g(-1) of black carbon for the surface snow layers. Depth-integrated photochemical production rates of NO2 in the Dome C snowpack were calculated as 5.3 x 10(12) molecules m(-2) s(-1), 2.3 x 10(12) molecules m(-2) s(-1) and 8 x 10(11) molecules m(-2) s(-1) for clear skies and solar zenith angles of 60 degrees, 70 degrees and 80 degrees respectively using the TUV-snow radiative-transfer model. Depending upon the snowpack stratigraphy, a minimum of 85% of the NO2 may originate from the top 20 cm of the Dome C snowpack. It is found that on a multi-annual time-scale photolysis can remove up to 80% of nitrate from surface snow, confirming independent isotopic evidence that photolysis is an important driver of nitrate loss occurring in the EAIS (East Antarctic Ice Sheet) snowpack. However, the model cannot completely account for the total observed nitrate loss of 90-95% or the shape of the observed nitrate concentration depth profile. A more complete model will need to include also physical processes such as evaporation, re-deposition or diffusion between the quasi-liquid layer on snow grains and firn air to account for the discrepancies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9787-9801
Number of pages15
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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