Spatiotemporal variations of snowmelt in Antarctica derived from satellite scanning multichannel microwave radiometer and Special Sensor Microwave Imager data (1978–2004)



[1] We derived the extent, onset date, end date, and duration of snowmelt in Antarctica from 1978 to 2004 using satellite passive microwave scanning multichannel microwave radiometer (SMMR) and Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) data. A wavelet-transform-based method was developed to determine and characterize melt occurrences. About 9–12% of the Antarctic surface experiences melt annually. This is more than twice the surface melt extent measured in Greenland. Seasonally, surface melt primarily takes place in December, January, and February and peaks in early January. Regression analysis over the 25 year period of study reveals a negative interannual trend in surface melt. Nevertheless, the trend inference is not statistically significant. Large year-to-year fluctuations characterize the interannual variability. Extremely high melt occurred in the 1982/1983 and 1991/1992 summers, while extremely weak melt occurred in the 1999/2000 summer. A strong correlation with air temperature suggests that the melt index can serve as a diagnostic indicator for regional temperature variations. Periodic melting has been observed over Ross Ice Shelf, Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf, the West Antarctic ice streams, and outlet glaciers in the Transantarctic Mountains. The Antarctic Peninsula, West Ice Shelf, Shackleton Ice Shelf, Amery Ice Shelf, and the ice shelf along the Princess Ragnhild Coast experienced the most persistent and intensive melt and should be closely monitored for their stability in the future, given the recent disintegration of the Larsen Ice Shelf A and B.