Articles | Volume 4, issue 4
The Cryosphere, 4, 529–544, 2010
The Cryosphere, 4, 529–544, 2010

Research article 01 Dec 2010

Research article | 01 Dec 2010

Climate of the Greenland ice sheet using a high-resolution climate model – Part 2: Near-surface climate and energy balance

J. Ettema1,2, M. R. van den Broeke1, E. van Meijgaard3, and W. J. van de Berg1 J. Ettema et al.
  • 1Institute for Marine and Atmospheric research Utrecht, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • 2Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands
  • 3Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, De Bilt, The Netherlands

Abstract. The spatial variability of near-surface variables and surface energy balance components over the Greenland ice sheet are presented, using the output of a regional atmospheric climate model for the period 1958–2008. The model was evaluated in Part 1 of this paper.

The near-surface temperature over the ice sheet is affected by surface elevation, latitude, longitude, large-scale and small-scale advection, occurrence of summer melt and mesoscale topographical features. The atmospheric boundary layer is characterised by a strong temperature inversion, due to continuous longwave cooling of the surface. In combination with a gently sloping surface the radiative loss maintains a persistent katabatic wind. This radiative heat loss is mainly balanced by turbulent sensible heat transport towards the surface. In summer, the surface is near radiative balance, resulting in lower wind speeds. Absorption of shortwave radiation and a positive subsurface heat flux due to refreezing melt water are heat sources for surface sublimation and melt.

The strongest temperature deficits (>13 °C) are found on the northeastern slopes, where the strongest katabatic winds (>9 m s−1) and lowest relative humidity (<65%) occur. Due to strong large scale winds, clear sky (cloud cover <0.5) and a concave surface, a continuous supply of cold dry air is generated, which enhances the katabatic forcing and suppresses subsidence of potentially warmer free atmosphere air.