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Characteristics of the Antarctic surface mass balance, 1958–2002, using a regional atmospheric climate model

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Temporal and spatial characteristics of the Antarctic specific surface mass balance (SSMB) are presented, including its components solid precipitation, sublimation/deposition and melt. For this purpose, we use the output of a regional atmospheric climate model (RACMO2/ANT, horizontal resolution of ∼55 km) for the period 1958–2002. RACMO2/ANT uses European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) 40 year re-analysis (ERA-40) fields as forcing at the lateral boundaries. RACMO2/ANT underestimates SSMB in the high interior of East and West Antarctica and overestimates SSMB on the steep coastal slopes. Otherwise, the modeled spatial pattern of SSMB is in good qualitative agreement with recent compilations of in situ observations. Large-scale patterns, like the precipitation shadow effect of the Antarctic Peninsula, are well reproduced, and mesoscale SSMB patterns, such as the strong precipitation gradients on Law Dome, are well represented in the model. The integrated SSMB over the grounded ice sheet is 153 mm w.e.a−1 for the period 1958–2002, which agrees within 5% with the latest measurement compilations. Sublimation and melt remove 7% and <1% respectively of the solid precipitation. We found significant seasonality of solid precipitation, with a maximum in autumn and a minimum in summer. No meaningful trend was identified for the SSMB, because the time series of solid precipitation and SSMB are affected by an inhomogeneity in 1980 within the ERA-40 fields that drive RACMO2/ANT. Sublimation, melt and liquid precipitation increase in time, which is related to a modeled increase in 2 m temperature.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2005

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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.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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