Constraints on Snow Accumulation and Firn Density in Greenland Using GPS Receivers

Friday, 19 December 2014
Kristine M Larson, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, United States, John M Wahr, Univ of Colorado, Boulder, CO, United States and Peter Kuipers Munneke, Utrecht University, Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, Utrecht, Netherlands
Data from three continuously-operating GPS sites and located on the interior of the Greenland ice sheet are analyzed. In each case, the GPS antenna has been placed on a pole that is set in the firn layer above the ice. Traditionally these kinds of GPS installations are used as base stations or to estimate the local horizontal speed and direction of the ice sheet. However, these data are also sensitive to the vertical displacement of the pole as it moves through the firn layer. A new method developed to measure snow depth variations with reflected GPS signals is applied to these GPS data from Greenland. This method provides a constraint on the vertical distance between the GPS antenna and the surface snow layer. The vertical positions and snow surface heights are then used to assess output from surface accumulation and firn densification models, showing agreement better than 10% at the sites with the longest records. Comparisons between the GPS reflection method and in situ snow sensors at the Dye 2 site show excellent agreement, capturing the dramatic changes observed in Greenland during the 2012 summer melt season. The GPS vertical measurements and snow surface layer estimates can help validate surface elevation results obtained using satellite altimetry.