A Study of Ice Accumulation and Tropospheric Circulation in Western Antarctica1

  1. Morton J. Rubin
  1. William W. Vickers

Published Online: 14 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/AR009p0135

Studies in Antarctic Meteorology

Studies in Antarctic Meteorology

How to Cite

Vickers, W. W. (1966) A Study of Ice Accumulation and Tropospheric Circulation in Western Antarctica1 , in Studies in Antarctic Meteorology (ed M. J. Rubin), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.. doi: 10.1029/AR009p0135

Author Information

  1. Technical Operations Research, Burlington, Massachusetts

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 14 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 1966

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780875901091

Online ISBN: 9781118664445



  • Geochemical dating techniques;
  • Ice accumulation;
  • Snow characteristics;
  • Synoptic pattern—accumulation relationships;
  • Synoptic patterns, station accumulation records and type-control pit stratigraphy;
  • Traverse analyses;
  • Tropospheric circulation


The purpose of this investigation is to determine the distribution of snow accumulation in western Antarctica and to associate it with relevant synoptic meteorological factors. The supporting evidence for the accumulation figures cited is derived primarily from tracing snow layers from areas of known stratigraphic record to areas of unknown stratigraphic record. Density and ram hardness profiles are found to be unsatisfactory as a sole means of determining accumulation because of spatial variation in regions of complex stratigraphy. Distribution of grain size within a snow layer provides moderate help for the layer tracing technique employed herein. The most favorable tools to employ for tracing layers are crusts, slabs, and icing phenomena. (This work is summarized from the parent report.) The lateral extent of the favorable features is determined by examining the areal extent of weather systems producing them and by correlating the presence of these systems with a record of the simultaneous snow surface alterations at widely separated stations. Concurrently at these stations a historic record of the snow stratigraphy is constructed, such that annual snow layers become recognizable in unknown areas by a knowledge of the recorded effects of widespread meteorological events, e.g. a drizzle crust formed on a certain date. An additional line of support for the dating of layers is sought in geochemical analyses. In this study, bomb fallout in snow samples is used to date certain snow layers. Since data are meager, the study is as much an evaluation of the technique as it is a beneficiary of the technique. Also considered (in the parent report) is the use of deuterium and oxygen isotope analyses as aids in determining accumulation. Examples of contributions to the present investigation are cited.

An analysis of IGY and post-IGY snowpit data, supported by evidence derived in the above manner, shows the annual rate of ice accumulation in western Antarctica to be 19.8 g/cm2 for approximately the 1956–1960 time period. The distribution of accumulation is the same as the distribution of precipitation. Broadly speaking, the distribution of precipitation is governed in space and time by the interaction between inland highs and coastal circuiting maritime lows and by the occasional presence of a blocking high over Bellingshausen Sea. The snow accumulation map presented correlates well with apparent atmospheric circulation.