Climate change is causing glaciers worldwide to melt. Worldwide? Not in East Antarctica – an area larger than the whole of Australia – where ice stocks are growing. “There’s more precipitation than there used to be. As it is still cold enough, it falls as snow, which turns into ice,” explains Michael Lehning, who, at SLF and at EPFL, is investigating the interactions between the atmosphere and snow cover. It is open to question whether the increase in the East can compensate for the ice loss in the rest of Antarctica and the associated rise in sea levels. To check this, we need to know how much snow turns to ice and where. This is not particularly easy: Severe storms frequently shift the snow around, and some of it is
sublimated back to the atmosphere. Michi wants to understand the processes involved.
This is why, in 2016, he went to the inland research station Princess Elisabeth, where he installed a new kind of sensor combination to automatically record the transport and deposition of snow. “The station is powered by solar and wind energy, and was able to provide data throughout the whole winter. This data is unique!” exclaims Michi delightedly. This year he has also been measuring the same parameters closer to the coast, where snow deposition may proceed differently. The data analyses will help to obtain a more precise mass balance of the Antarctic ice. (Birgit Ottmer, Diagonal 1/18)