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The density–depth relationship of the Antarctic ice sheet is important for establishing a high-precision surface mass balance model and predicting future ice-sheet contributions to global sea levels. A new algorithm is used to reconstruct firn density and densification rate by inverting monostatic radio wave echoes from ground-operated frequency-modulated continuous wave radar data collected near four ice cores along the transect from Zhongshan Station to Dome A. The inverted density profile is consistent with the core data within 5.54% root mean square error. Due to snow redistribution, the densification rate within 88 km of ice core DT401 is correlated with the accumulation rate and varies greatly over horizontal distances of <5 km. That is, the depth at which a critical density of 830 kg m−3 is reached decreases and densification rate increases in high-accumulation regions but decreases in low-accumulation regions. This inversion technique can be used to analyse more Antarctic radar data and obtain the density distribution trend, which can improve the accuracy of mass-balance estimations.
Using frequency-modulated continuous wave radar data from the 32nd Chinese Antarctic Research Expedition in 2015/16, subsurface profiles were obtained along an East Antarctic inland traverse from Zhongshan station to Dome A, and four distinct regions were selected to analyze the spatiotemporal variability in historical surface mass balance (SMB). Based on depth, density, and age data from ice cores along the traverse, the radar data were calibrated to yield average SMB data. The zone 49–195 km from the coast has the highest SMB (235 kg m−2 a−1). The 780–892 km zone was most affected by the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age, and the SMB during ad 1454–1836 (71 kg m−2 a−1) was only one-quarter of that in the 20th century. The SMB in the 1080–1157 km zone fluctuates the most, possibly due to erosion or irregular deposition of snow by katabatic winds in low SMB areas with surface elevation fluctuations. Dome A (1157–1236 km) has the lowest SMB (29 kg m−2 a−1) and did not decrease during Little Ice Age. Understanding the spatiotemporal variability of SMB in a larger space can help us understand the complex climate history of Antarctica.
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