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Melinda Webster

Melinda Webster

Research Physical Scientist
Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory (Code 615), NASA/GSFC

Snow plays several critical roles in the sea ice system. In autumn through spring, snow insulates the sea ice cover from the cooler atmosphere, inhibiting sea ice growth. In spring, snow’s high albedo shields the sea ice surface from sunlight, delaying sea ice melt. Any changes in snow, therefore, directly affect the mass balance of the sea ice cover. At NASA, efforts are being dedicated to routine monitoring of spring snow conditions via airborne aircraft, producing snow thickness products from satellites, and running snow model simulations for enabling the scientific community to address questions centered on the ongoing changes in the sea ice environment.

My snow-related work focuses on the investigation of long-term changes in snow thickness distributions on Arctic sea ice using observations and model data. I synthesize field observations, airborne and satellite data to assess the quality of remote sensing snow products and advance their use for science. In my current project, I am working with a team to develop a snow thickness product in support of NASA’s Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) mission. The snow thickness product is created using a two-layer snow model forced by satellite observations of sea ice conditions and reanalysis data. The outcome will improve the retrieval of sea ice thickness from ICESat-2’s laser altimetry data.

Further reading:

Contributing author to the Arctic Report Card, to be released December 2017,

Blanchard-Wrigglesworth, E., Webster, M. A., Farrell, S. L., and C. M. Bitz (in review), Reconstruction of Arctic snow on sea ice, J. Geophys. Res. Oceans., doi:10.1029/2017XXXX.

Kwok, R., Kurtz, N. T., Brucker, L., Ivanoff, A., Newman, T., Farrell, S. L., King, J., Howell, S., Webster, M.A., Paden, J., Leuschen, C., MacGregor, J. A., Richter-Menge, J., Harbeck, J., and M. Tschudi (2017), Inter-comparison of snow depth retrievals over Arctic sea ice from radar data acquired by Operation IceBridge, The Cryosphere,

Contributing author to the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme’s Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) report (2017), Ch. 6.2: “Changes in sea ice thermodynamics, age and dynamic processes.”

Webster, M.A., I.G. Rigor, S.V. Nghiem, N.T. Kurtz, S.L. Farrell, D.K. Perovich, and M. Sturm (2014), Interdecadal changes in snow depth on Arctic sea ice, J. Geophys. Res. Oceans, 119, pp. 5395–5406, doi:10.1002/2014JC009985.