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Greenland ice sheet surface mass-balance variability: 1991–2003

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The Polar MM5 mesoscale atmospheric model was run for 13 years (1991–2003) over Greenland at 24 km horizontal resolution (Box and others, 2004). The model physics were driven by satellite, station and weather-balloon observational data assimilation, i.e. European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) operational analysis. The analysis in this study focuses on the response of the surface mass balance to its primary controls: temperature and precipitation. The results indicate coherent spatial patterns of variability and statistically significant links with temperature and precipitation and the North Atlantic Oscillation. Precipitation trends have the same spatial pattern and sign as temperature, suggesting an association of precipitation and temperature variability. Increasing temperatures contribute to an increasing ablation trend and expansion of the ablation zone despite increasing accumulation trends. The Pinatubo (Philippines) volcanic cooling in the early 1990s enhances this apparent warming trend. Only in the northeast does precipitation appear to dominate the surface mass balance, where both temperature and precipitation have decreased. There is little evidence for a total ice-sheet surface mass-balance trend, although the meltwater runoff has a positive trend and, combined with iceberg discharge and basal melting estimates, suggests the ice sheet as a whole is in a state of net mass loss over this period.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2005-08-01

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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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