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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 12, issue 4 | Copyright
The Cryosphere, 12, 1479-1498, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 20 Apr 2018

Research article | 20 Apr 2018

Modelling the climate and surface mass balance of polar ice sheets using RACMO2 – Part 2: Antarctica (1979–2016)

Jan Melchior van Wessem1, Willem Jan van de Berg1, Brice P. Y. Noël1, Erik van Meijgaard2, Charles Amory3, Gerit Birnbaum4, Constantijn L. Jakobs1, Konstantin Krüger4, Jan T. M. Lenaerts5, Stef Lhermitte6, Stefan R. M. Ligtenberg1, Brooke Medley7, Carleen H. Reijmer1, Kristof van Tricht8, Luke D. Trusel9, Lambertus H. van Ulft2, Bert Wouters1, Jan Wuite10, and Michiel R. van den Broeke1 Jan Melchior van Wessem et al.
  • 1Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 2Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, De Bilt, the Netherlands
  • 3Department of Geography, University of Liege, Liege, Belgium
  • 4Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany
  • 5Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder CO, USA
  • 6Department of Geoscience and Remote Sensing, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands
  • 7Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA
  • 8KU Leuven, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Leuven, Belgium
  • 9Department of Geology, Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey, USA
  • 10ENVEO IT GmbH, Innsbruck, Austria

Abstract. We evaluate modelled Antarctic ice sheet (AIS) near-surface climate, surface mass balance (SMB) and surface energy balance (SEB) from the updated polar version of the regional atmospheric climate model, RACMO2 (1979–2016). The updated model, referred to as RACMO2.3p2, incorporates upper-air relaxation, a revised topography, tuned parameters in the cloud scheme to generate more precipitation towards the AIS interior and modified snow properties reducing drifting snow sublimation and increasing surface snowmelt.

Comparisons of RACMO2 model output with several independent observational data show that the existing biases in AIS temperature, radiative fluxes and SMB components are further reduced with respect to the previous model version. The model-integrated annual average SMB for the ice sheet including ice shelves (minus the Antarctic Peninsula, AP) now amounts to 2229Gty−1, with an interannual variability of 109Gty−1. The largest improvement is found in modelled surface snowmelt, which now compares well with satellite and weather station observations. For the high-resolution ( ∼ 5.5km) AP simulation, results remain comparable to earlier studies.

The updated model provides a new, high-resolution data set of the contemporary near-surface climate and SMB of the AIS; this model version will be used for future climate scenario projections in a forthcoming study.

Publications Copernicus
Short summary
We present a detailed evaluation of the latest version of the regional atmospheric climate model RACMO2.3p2 (1979-2016) over the Antarctic ice sheet. The model successfully reproduces the present-day climate and surface mass balance (SMB) when compared with an extensive set of observations and improves on previous estimates of the Antarctic climate and SMB. This study shows that the latest version of RACMO2 can be used for high-resolution future projections over the AIS.
We present a detailed evaluation of the latest version of the regional atmospheric climate model...