Investigations into the climate of the South Pole

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Investigations into the climate of the South Pole

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Title: Investigations into the climate of the South Pole
Author: Town, Michael S
Abstract: Four investigations into the climate of the South Pole are presented. The general subjects of polar cloud cover, the surface energy balance in a stable boundary layer, subsurface energy transfer in snow, and modification of water stable isotopes in snow after deposition are investigated based on the historical data set from the South Pole.Clouds over the South Pole. A new, accurate cloud fraction time series is developed based on downwelling infrared radiation measurements taken at the South Pole. The results are compared to cloud fraction estimates from visual observations and satellite retrievals of cloud fraction. Visual observers are found to underestimate monthly mean cloud fraction by as much as 20% during the winter, and satellite retrievals of cloud fraction are not accurate for operational or climatic purposes. We find associations of monthly mean cloud fraction with other meteorological variables at the South Pole for use in testing models of polar weather and climate.Surface energy balance. A re-examination of the surface energy balance at the South Pole is motivated by large discrepancies in the literature. We are not able to find closure in the new surface energy balance, likely due to weaknesses in the turbulent heat flux parameterizations in extremely stable boundary layers. These results will be useful for constraining our understanding and parameterization of stable boundary layers.Subsurface energy transfer. A finite-volume model of the snow is used to simulate nine years of near-surface snow temperatures, heating rates, and vapor pressures at the South Pole. We generate statistics characterizing heat and vapor transfer in the snow on submonthly to interannual time scales. The variability of near-surface snow temperatures on submonthly time scales is large, and has potential implications for revising the interpretation of paleoclimate records of water stable isotopes in polar snow.Modification of water stable isotopes after deposition. The evolution of water stable isotopes in near-surface polar snow is simulated using a Rayleigh fractionation model including the processes of pore-space diffusion, forced ventilation, and intra-ice-grain diffusion. We find isotopic enrichment of winter snow during subsequent summers as enriched water vapor is forced into the snow and deposits as frost. This process depends on snow and atmospheric temperatures, surface wind speed, accumulation rate, and surface morphology. We further find that differential enrichment between the present day and the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) may exaggerate the greenlandic glacial-interglacial temperature difference derived from water stable isotopes. In Antarctica, present-day post-depositional modification is likely equal to that of the LGM due to the compensating factors of lower temperatures and lower accumulation rate during the LGM.
Description: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Washington, 2007.

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