Spatial and temporal characterization of Hoar Formation in central Greenland using SSM/I brightness temperatures

Christopher A. Shuman, Richard B. Alley

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33 Scopus citations


The summertime formation and burial of low‐density, coarse‐grained, hoar layers in the snow of central Greenland can be mapped using satellite passive‐microwave data. Variations in a signal derived from Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I) brightness temperature trends correlate temporally and spatially with hoar complex evolution over ≈120,000 km² of the Greenland ice sheet's dry firn facies. Observations at the Greenland Ice Sheet Project II (GISP2) site indicate that changes in surface conditions and brightness temperatures correspond to four hoar events over two summers, as expected from theory. Following a snowfall, the smooth, high‐density surface reflects some emitted, 37 GHz, horizontally‐polarized (H) radiation but little vertically‐polarized (V) radiation. Progressive surface roughness increases and density decreases during hoar formation cause a gradual decrease in H reflection. Formation and burial of a hoar layer thus causes a slow decrease followed by an abrupt increase in the V/H ratio. Hoar layers have been used to date the GISP2 ice core through the entire Holocene; archived microwave data now can be used to assess the timing and frequency of the formation of these stratigraphic markers in central Greenland.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2643-2646
Number of pages4
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 14 1993

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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