Articles | Volume 8, issue 1
The Cryosphere, 8, 125–135, 2014
The Cryosphere, 8, 125–135, 2014

Research article 22 Jan 2014

Research article | 22 Jan 2014

Updated cloud physics in a regional atmospheric climate model improves the modelled surface energy balance of Antarctica

J. M. van Wessem1, C. H. Reijmer1, J. T. M. Lenaerts1, W. J. van de Berg1, M. R. van den Broeke1, and E. van Meijgaard2 J. M. van Wessem et al.
  • 1Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 2Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, De Bilt, the Netherlands

Abstract. In this study the effects of changes in the physics package of the regional atmospheric climate model RACMO2 on the modelled surface energy balance, near-surface temperature and wind speed of Antarctica are presented. The physics package update primarily consists of an improved turbulent and radiative flux scheme and a revised cloud scheme that includes a parameterisation for ice cloud super-saturation. The ice cloud super-saturation has led to more moisture being transported onto the continent, resulting in more and optically thicker clouds and more downward long-wave radiation. Overall, the updated model better represents the surface energy balance, based on a comparison with >750 months of data from nine automatic weather stations located in East Antarctica. Especially the representation of the turbulent sensible heat flux and net long-wave radiative flux has improved with a decrease in biases of up to 40%. As a result, modelled surface temperatures have increased and the bias, when compared to 10 m snow temperatures from 64 ice-core observations, has decreased from −2.3 K to −1.3 K. The weaker surface temperature inversion consequently improves the representation of the sensible heat flux, whereas wind speed biases remain unchanged. However, significant model biases remain, partly because RACMO2 at a resolution of 27 km is unable to resolve steep topography.