Articles | Volume 2, issue 1
08 Jan 2008
 | 08 Jan 2008

Spatial structures in the heat budget of the Antarctic atmospheric boundary layer

W. J. van de Berg, M. R. van den Broeke, and E. van Meijgaard

Abstract. Output from the regional climate model RACMO2/ANT is used to calculate the heat budget of the Antarctic atmospheric boundary layer (ABL). The main feature of the wintertime Antarctic ABL is a persistent temperature deficit compared to the free atmosphere. The magnitude of this deficit is controlled by the heat budget. During winter, transport of heat towards the surface by turbulence and net longwave emission are the primary ABL cooling terms. These processes show horizontal spatial variability only on continental scales. Vertical and horizontal, i.e. along-slope, advection of heat are the main warming terms. Over regions with convex ice sheet topography, i.e. domes and ridges, warming by downward vertical advection is enhanced due to divergence of the ABL wind field. Horizontal advection balances excess warming caused by vertical advection, hence the temperature deficit in the ABL weakens over domes and ridges along the prevailing katabatic wind. Conversely, vertical advection is reduced in regions with concave topography, i.e. valleys, where the ABL temperature deficit enlarges along the katabatic wind. Along the coast, horizontal and vertical advection is governed by the inability of the large-scale circulation to adapt to small scale topographic features. Meso-scale topographic structures have thus a strong impact on the ABL winter temperature, besides latitude and surface elevation. During summer, this mechanism is much weaker, and the horizontal variability of ABL temperatures is smaller.