Articles | Volume 7, issue 5
Research article
16 Sep 2013
Research article |  | 16 Sep 2013

Snow on the Ross Ice Shelf: comparison of reanalyses and observations from automatic weather stations

L. Cohen and S. Dean

Abstract. Snow accumulation measurements from automatic weather stations (AWS) around the Ross Ice Shelf (RIS), Antarctica, are used to provide a new set of ground-based observations which are compared to precipitation from the ECMWF ERA-Interim and NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis-2 datasets. The high temporal resolution of the AWS snow accumulation measurements allow for an event-based comparison of reanalyses precipitation to the in situ observations. Snow accumulation records from nine AWS provide multiple years of accumulation data between 2008 and 2012 over a relatively large, homogeneous region of Antarctica, and also provide the basis for a statistical evaluation of accumulation and precipitation events. The complex effects of wind on snow accumulation (which can both limit and enhance accumulation) complicate the use of the accumulation measurements, but this analysis shows that they can provide a valuable source of ground-based observations for comparisons to modelled precipitation on synoptic timescales. The analysis shows that ERA-Interim reproduces more precipitation events than NCEP-2, and these events correspond to an average 8.2% more precipitation. Significant correlations between reanalyses and AWS event sizes are seen at several stations and show that ERA-Interim consistently produces larger precipitation events than NCEP-2.