Articles | Volume 17, issue 2
Research article
 | Highlight paper
21 Feb 2023
Research article | Highlight paper |  | 21 Feb 2023

Climatology and surface impacts of atmospheric rivers on West Antarctica

Michelle L. Maclennan, Jan T. M. Lenaerts, Christine A. Shields, Andrew O. Hoffman, Nander Wever, Megan Thompson-Munson, Andrew C. Winters, Erin C. Pettit, Theodore A. Scambos, and Jonathan D. Wille

Data sets

SNOWPACK simulations for Thwaites Cavity and Channel AMIGOS sites in West Antarctica N. Wever and M.Thompson-Munson

AMIGOS-III Cavity and Channel Snow Height and Thermistor Snow Temperature Data T. Scambos

Vaisala WXT520 weather station data at the Cavity and Channel AMIGOS-III sites T. Scambos

MERRA-2 tavg1_2d_Ifo_Nx: 2d, 1-hourly, Time-Averaged, Single-Level, Assimilation, Land Surface Forcings V5.12.4 GMAO - Global Modeling and Assimilation Office

ERA5 hourly data on single levels from 1959 to present H. Hersbach, B. Bell, P. Berrisford, G. Biavati, A. Horányi, J. Muñoz Sabater, J. Nicolas, C. Peubey, R. Radu, I. Rozum, D. Schepers, A. Simmons, C. Soci, D. Dee, and J.-N. Thépaut

ARTMIP Tier-1 Catalogues J. J. Rutz, C. A. Shields, J. M. Lora, A. E. Payne, B. Guan, P. A. Ullrich, T. A., O'Brien, L. R. Leung, F. M. Ralph, M. F. Wehner, S. Brands, A. B. Marquardt~Collow, N. Goldenson, I. V. Gorodetskaya, H. Griffith, S. M. Hagos, K. Kashinath, B. Kawzenuk, H. Krishnan, V. Kurlin, D. Lavers, G. Magnusdottir, K. Mahoney, E. McClenny, G. Muszynski, M. D. Nguyen, Prabhat, Y. Qian, A. M. Ramos, C. Sarangi, S. Sellars, T. Shulgina, R. Tom, D. Waliser, D. Walton, G. Wick, A. M. Wilson, and M. Viale

SNOWPACK simulations for Thwaites Cavity and Channel AMIGOS sites in West Antarctica N. Wever

gnss-ir derived accumulation history at the GNSS sites LTHW, UTHW, and KHLR maintained by unavco and the polenet team A. Hoffman and K. Christianson

Model code and software

MeteoIO and SNOWPACK, License: GNU LHPLv3 WSL

snowpack-model/snowpack: 7afca63 (7afca63) N. Wever, E. Keenan, and snowpack-model

snowpack-model/snowpack: 149c586 (149c586) N. Wever, E. Keenan, and snowpack-model

thwaites-gnss-ir A. O. Hoffman

Atmospheric rivers are short-lived events that can have important impacts on the ice sheets but are not well resolved in climate models. They give rise to ice shelf loss and widespread melt in some areas but ice gain in others. The region of interest of this paper, Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica, is one of the most important to understand in detail given potential sea level rise impacts and this study is therefore of interest to stakeholders and the general public as well as scientists concerned with atmosphere ice sheet interactions. The paper also sheds light on synoptic situations that lead to ARs and it is therefore of broad general scientific interest.
Short summary
Atmospheric rivers are air masses that transport large amounts of moisture and heat towards the poles. Here, we use a combination of weather observations and models to quantify the amount of snowfall caused by atmospheric rivers in West Antarctica which is about 10 % of the total snowfall each year. We then examine a unique event that occurred in early February 2020, when three atmospheric rivers made landfall over West Antarctica in rapid succession, leading to heavy snowfall and surface melt.