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Space–time Antarctic surface mass-balance variability from climate models

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The interannual to interdecadal variability and space–time statistics (including radius of decorrelation) of the Antarctic surface mass balance (SMB) are evaluated from climate models and meteorological analyses. At model resolution scales (>100 km), the interannual relative standard deviation of precipitation ranges from ∼5% (remotest interior) to ∼40% and possibly more. Time variability is spatially coherent at distances of ∼500 km on average, less than 300 km in the interior near ridges, but in excess of 700 km in some regions. As far as spatial distributions are concerned, interannual statistics can be broadly transposed to interdecadal time-scales. The amplitude of variability may also be extrapolated across time-scales, using a 'white' spectrum hypothesis according to one coupled ocean–atmosphere model, but a significantly 'red' spectrum hypothesis according to another. Surface sublimation and blowing-snow processes are estimated to have limited contributions to the statistics of the SMB at model-resolved scales. Precipitation statistics can thus largely be transposed to SMB. The information reported here is expected to be useful for defining the details of field programmes such as the International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition (ITASE), for extrapolating the spatial significance of field SMB data and for better interpreting Antarctic ice-sheet surface elevation changes from satellite altimetry.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-06-01

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

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