Articles | Volume 8, issue 5
Research article
20 Oct 2014
Research article |  | 20 Oct 2014

Sensitivity of Greenland Ice Sheet surface mass balance to perturbations in sea surface temperature and sea ice cover: a study with the regional climate model MAR

B. Noël, X. Fettweis, W. J. van de Berg, M. R. van den Broeke, and M. Erpicum

Abstract. During recent summers (2007–2012), several surface melt records were broken over the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS). The extreme summer melt resulted in part from a persistent negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), favoring warmer atmospheric conditions than normal over the GrIS. Simultaneously, large anomalies in sea ice cover (SIC) and sea surface temperature (SST) were observed in the North Atlantic, suggesting a possible connection. To assess the direct impact of 2007–2012 SIC and SST anomalies on GrIS surface mass balance (SMB), a set of sensitivity experiments was carried out with the regional climate model MAR forced by ERA-Interim. These simulations suggest that perturbations in SST and SIC in the seas surrounding Greenland do not considerably impact GrIS SMB, as a result of the katabatic wind blocking effect. These offshore-directed winds prevent oceanic near-surface air, influenced by SIC and SST anomalies, from penetrating far inland. Therefore, the ice sheet SMB response is restricted to coastal regions, where katabatic winds cease. A topic for further investigation is how anomalies in SIC and SST might have indirectly affected the surface melt by changing the general circulation in the North Atlantic region, hence favoring more frequent warm air advection towards the GrIS.