Sensitivity of Greenland Ice Sheet surface mass balance to surface albedo parameterization: a study with a regional climate model
- 1Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
- 2Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, De Bilt, The Netherlands
- 3Department of Geography, University of Liège, Belgium
Abstract. We present a sensitivity study of the surface mass balance (SMB) of the Greenland Ice Sheet, as modeled using a regional atmospheric climate model, to various parameter settings in the albedo scheme. The snow albedo scheme uses grain size as a prognostic variable and further depends on cloud cover, solar zenith angle and black carbon concentration. For the control experiment the overestimation of absorbed shortwave radiation (+6%) at the K-transect (west Greenland) for the period 2004–2009 is considerably reduced compared to the previous density-dependent albedo scheme (+22%). To simulate realistic snow albedo values, a small concentration of black carbon is needed, which has strongest impact on melt in the accumulation area. A background ice albedo field derived from MODIS imagery improves the agreement between the modeled and observed SMB gradient along the K-transect. The effect of enhanced meltwater retention and refreezing is a decrease of the albedo due to an increase in snow grain size. As a secondary effect of refreezing the snowpack is heated, enhancing melt and further lowering the albedo. Especially in a warmer climate this process is important, since it reduces the refreezing potential of the firn layer that covers the Greenland Ice Sheet.