Physical and optical properties of Arctic marine snow

Abstract : The Arctic ocean shows a very strong seasonality trough the permanent presence of sea ice whose extent varies from 6 to 15 millions km2. As an interface, sea ice limits ocean - atmosphere interactions and impacts the global energy budget by reflecting most of the short-wave incoming radiations. The snow cover, at the surface, is a key element contributing to the optical properties of sea ice. Snow enhances further the surface albedo and thus delays the onset of the ice melt. In addition, snow is the main responsible for the vertical light extinction in sea ice. However, after the polar night, this low light transmitted to the water column is a limiting factor for primary production at the base of the oceanic food web. The snow cover, through the temporal evolution of its physical properties, plays a key role controlling the magnitude and the timing of the phytoplanktonic bloom. In the actual global warming context, sea ice undergoes radical changes including summer extent reduction, thinning and shifts in snow thickness, all of which already alter Arctic primary production on a regional and global scale.This PhD thesis aims to better constrain the snow cover contributions to the radiative transfer of sea ice and its impact on Arctic primary production. It is based on a dataset collected during two sampling campaigns on landfast sea ice. Physical properties of snow such as snow specific surface area (SSA) and density allow a precise modeling of the radiative transfer which is then validated by optical measurements including albedo, transmittance through sea ice and vertical profiles of irradiance in the snow.During the melt season, marine snow which shows strong spatial heterogeneity evolves fol- lowing four distinctive phases. The melting, which first appears at the surface and gradually propagates to the entire snowpack, is characterized by a decrease in SSA from 25-60 m2kg-1 to less than 3 m2kg-1 resulting in a decrease in albedo and an increase in sea ice transmittance. This is a chaotic period, where optical properties show a very strong temporal variability induced by alternative episodes of surface melting and snowfalls. The physical properties of snow are used in a radiative transfer model in order to calculate albedo, transmittance through sea ice and vertical profiles of irradiance at all depths. The comparison between these simulations and measured vertical profiles of irradiance in snow highlights the presence of snow absorbing impurities which were subsequently qualitatively and quantitatively studied. In average, impurities were composed of 660 ngg-1 of mineral dust and 10 ngg-1 of black carbon. They were responsible for a two-fold reduction in light transmitted through sea ice. The light extinction, calculated at all depths in sea ice, and represented by isolums, was compared to the temporal evolution of ice algae biomass. The results show that every significant growth in ice algae population is related to an increase of light in the ice. These growths were observed even at very low light intensities of 0.4 uEm-2s-2. Light variations in the ice were linked by snow metamorphism and snow melting at the surface.
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Gauthier Verin. Physical and optical properties of Arctic marine snow. Glaciology. Université Grenoble Alpes; Université Laval (Québec, Canada), 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019GREAU010⟩. ⟨tel-02268971⟩

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