Detailed observations of the rippled surface of Antarctic blue ice areas

Richard Bintanja, Charleen H. Reijmer, Suzanne J.M.H. Hulscher

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This paper presents detailed observations of the regularly rippled surface on an Antarctic blue-ice area near Svea, at five sites. The wavelength of the ripples was found to be 20-24 cm, while the wave height (crest-trough) was 1-2 cm. The ripple crests are generally oriented perpendicular to the direction of the strongest winds. Repeated measurements show that wave heights increase throughout the summer, with most ablation occurring in the wave troughs. This implies that traditional methods of measuring ablation (such as stakes when a rod on the ice surface is used to define a mean surface height) tend to underestimate total ablation because they sample only crests. One site exhibited significant migration of the surface ripples of about 2 cm month-1 in the downwind direction, whereas three other sites showed no significant wave movement. The formation and the specific characteristics of the surface ripples are most likely caused by self-amplifying interaction mechanisms between the free ice surface and the overlying turbulent atmosphere, which necessarily involve spatial variations in sublimation. A simple model was used to quantify the interaction between the surface ripples, the airflow aloft and the sublimation rate. The model is able to predict wavelengths and migration rates that are in reasonable agreement with the observations.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)387-396
JournalJournal of glaciology
Issue number158
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • IR-41764
  • METIS-124025

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