Articles | Volume 10, issue 1
Brief communication
01 Mar 2016
Brief communication |  | 01 Mar 2016

Brief Communication: Upper-air relaxation in RACMO2 significantly improves modelled interannual surface mass balance variability in Antarctica

Willem Jan van de Berg and Brooke Medley

Abstract. The Regional Atmospheric Climate Model (RACMO2) has been a powerful tool for improving surface mass balance (SMB) estimates from GCMs or reanalyses. However, new yearly SMB observations for West Antarctica show that the modelled interannual variability in SMB is poorly simulated by RACMO2, in contrast to ERA-Interim, which resolves this variability well. In an attempt to remedy RACMO2 performance, we included additional upper-air relaxation (UAR) in RACMO2. With UAR, the correlation to observations is similar for RACMO2 and ERA-Interim. The spatial SMB patterns and ice-sheet-integrated SMB modelled using UAR remain very similar to the estimates of RACMO2 without UAR. We only observe an upstream smoothing of precipitation in regions with very steep topography like the Antarctic Peninsula. We conclude that UAR is a useful improvement for regional climate model simulations, although results in regions with steep topography should be treated with care.

Short summary
Regional climate models improve the spatial surface mass balance (SMB) patterns in Antarctica compared to reanalyses, but they deteriorate the representation of interannual variability in SMB. Hence, we implemented additional nudging in our regional climate model RACMO2. Using annual SMB observations of the Twaites drainage basin, Antarctica, we show that this nudging vastly improves the representation of interannual variability without significant deterioration of the modelled mean SMB fields.