Articles | Volume 8, issue 1
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 Wessem, C. H. Reijmer, J. T. M. Lenaerts, W. J. van de Berg, M. R. van den Broeke, and E. van Meijgaard

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.