Accumulation rate measurements at Taylor Dome, East Antarctica: Techniques and strategies for mass balance measurements in polar environments


Accumulation rate measurements on the East Antarctic plateau are challenging due to both spatial and temporal variability. Annual stratigraphy is often not reliably or consistently preserved in the firn, and so accumulation cannot be determined from snow pit stratigraphy. We present a suite of accumulation rate measurements collected over several seasons at Taylor Dome, East Antarctica. We compare net accumulation results from direct burial rate measurements and β-activity firn cores along a 35 km traverse. The two methods are consistent and show that the net accumulation varies from greater than 10 cm a-1 to about 1 cm a-1 (ice equivalent) southwest to northeast across the dome. We map the depth of shallow radar layering to interpolate and extrapolate these point-location measurements and show that considerable variations occur over kilometer scales resulting from subtle surface topography. We also present accumulation rates estimated from concentration of the cosmogenic isotope 10Be and from activity profiles of 210Pb. Finally, satellite passive microwave data are used to estimate spatially averaged accumulation rates on the regional to continental scale to provide a context for these local observations. We show that robust mass balance measurements in this environment must rely on spatial and/or temporal averaging.


Earth Sciences, Earth Systems Research Center

Publication Date


Journal Title

Geografiska Annaler, Series A: Physical Geography



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Document Type



Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography 1999