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Present-day climate of Antarctica : A study with a regional atmospheric climate model

By W.J. van de Berg


The present-day climate of Antarctica is studied with a regional climate model. In this research, foci are the surface mass balance, i.e. the accumulation of snow on the ice cap, and the heat budget of the atmosphere above Antarctica. Insight in the surface mass balance of the Antarctic ice cap is gained by explanation, evaluation and subsequently calibration of model-simulated surface mass balance patterns using more than 1900 in situ observations. Furthermore, a method is developed to quantify the uncertainty in the local and spatially integrated surface mass balance estimate. In our study, a good correlation between the observations and model results is found, giving reliability to the results presented. The final surface mass balance estimate primarily deviates in the coastal zones of Antarctica from earlier estimates. Our results strongly suggest much higher accumulation rates than previously assumed, leading to a 15% higher overall accumulation. Unfortunately, the coastal zone is poorly covered by observations, which makes a final assessment difficult. Analysis of the heat budget of the Antarctic atmosphere clarifies the dynamics of the Antarctic boundary layer and shows the coupling to the global climate. Our results show how the boundary layer develops from the interior of Antarctica to the coast; from shallow and extremely stable to deeper, mixed but still stable. Furthermore, the effect of surface undulations on the local near surface temperature is explained. Domes and ridges have a weakening effect on the surface inversion of the temperature through enhanced divergence of the near-surface wind field. Oppositely, valleys strengthen the surface inversion. This coupling of topography and temperature causes the spatial variability of surface temperatures on scales of typical a few hundred kilometers

Publisher: Utrecht University
Year: 2008
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