Evaluation of the updated regional climate model RACMO2.3: summer snowfall impact on the Greenland Ice Sheet
Abstract. We discuss Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) surface mass balance (SMB) differences between the updated polar version of the RACMO climate model (RACMO2.3) and the previous version (RACMO2.1). Among other revisions, the updated model includes an adjusted rainfall-to-snowfall conversion that produces exclusively snowfall under freezing conditions; this especially favours snowfall in summer. Summer snowfall in the ablation zone of the GrIS has a pronounced effect on melt rates, affecting modelled GrIS SMB in two ways. By covering relatively dark ice with highly reflective fresh snow, these summer snowfalls have the potential to locally reduce melt rates in the ablation zone of the GrIS through the snow-albedo-melt feedback. At larger scales, SMB changes are driven by differences in orographic precipitation following a shift in large-scale circulation, in combination with enhanced moisture to precipitation conversion for warm to moderately cold conditions. A detailed comparison of model output with observations from automatic weather stations, ice cores and ablation stakes shows that the model update generally improves the simulated SMB-elevation gradient as well as the representation of the surface energy balance, although significant biases remain.