The accumulation rate on Potsdam Glacier, East Antarctica, and its spatial and temporal variations are examined using ground-penetrating radar, snow samples and firn-core studies. Physical properties in snow samples and along firn cores provide distributions of density with depth, showing only small spatial variation. Counting of peaks in δ18O along the firn cores yields an age–depth distribution that is transferred to the stratigraphy of isochronal internal layers observed with radar. From two radar horizons we determine the spatial accumulation pattern, averaged over the periods 1970–80 and 1980–2004. The shape of internal layers indicates an ablation area at the eastern margin of the investigation area. Accumulation rates show a very high spatial variability, with a mean value of 141 kgm–2 a–1 for the period 1970–2004 and a standard deviation of almost 50%. Mean temporal variation of only a few per cent throughout the investigated area for the observed time interval is much less than the spatial variations. The mean accumulation values are somewhat less than values reported before from this region. Accumulation pattern and surface topography are linked in a way indicating that wind-borne redistribution of snow significantly contributes to the observed spatial variations of accumulation rates. The accumulation data and their variability complement and validate present and future satellite studies of Antarctica’s mass balance.