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Evolution of Antarctic Surface Mass Balance by high-resolution downscaling of LMDZ4 AGCM and contribution to sea-level change

By Cécile Agosta, Vincent Favier, Gerhard Krinner and Hubert Gallée


Most of the IPCC-AR4 Atmospheric Global Circulation Models (AGCM) predict an increase of the Antarctic Surface Mass Balance (SMB) during the 21st century that would mitigate global sea level rise. Present accumulation and predicted change are largest at the ice sheet margins because they are driven by snowfall, which mostly comes from warm, moist air arising over the land slopes. The coastal belt is also where complex processes of sublimation, melt and redistribution by the wind occur. Thus, high-resolution modelling (5 to 15 km) is necessary to adequately capture the effects of small-scale variations in topography on the atmospheric variables in this area, but limitations in computing resources prevent such resolution at the scale of Antarctica in full climate models. We present here a downscaling method leading to 15-km SMB resolution for century time-scales over Antarctica. We compute precipitation fields by considering orographic processes induced by the broad-scale and the fine-scale topography, and we estimate sublimation, melting and refreezing with a surface scheme validated for snow and ice-covered land surface. We display the SMB downscaled from LMDZ4 AGCM outputs (~60-km resolution), and compare the agreement of the broad-scale SMB and the downscaled SMB with 20th century observations. Then, we present hi-resolution features of the Antarctic SMB evolution during the 21st century downscaled from LMDZ4 and discuss the effect of the resolution on the Antarctic SMB contribution to sea level change. The downscaling model is a powerful tool that will be applied to others climate models for a better assessment of future sea level rise.Peer reviewe

Topics: Physical, chemical, mathematical & earth Sciences :: Earth sciences & physical geography, Physique, chimie, mathématiques & sciences de la terre :: Sciences de la terre & géographie physique
Year: 2011
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