Geophysical Research Letters

Strong spatial variability of snow accumulation observed with helicopter-borne GPR on two adjacent Alpine glaciers



[1] This study compares high-resolution helicopter-borne radar measurements to extensive ground-based profiling of the snow cover on Findel- and Adler Glacier, Switzerland. The results demonstrate that derived accumulation values of either method are well in accordance. The spatial distribution of radar based snow depth allows a clear distinction of three zones of different accumulation characteristics: (1) The lower part of Findel Glacier shows a clear altitudinal trend while (2) the upper part has no trend in altitude but high spatial fluctuations in snow depth. (3) Adler Glacier's accumulation characteristics are similar to zone (2). However, despite their close vicinity, accumulation on (3) is reduced by 40% compared to (2). The observed strong spatial variability emphasises the need for spatially continuous measurements for studies involving accumulation on glaciers. Finally, reasons for observed variations (e.g., preferential snow deposition and snow redistribution) are discussed.