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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  11 Feb 2020

11 Feb 2020

Review status
A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Reconciling the surface temperature–surface mass balance relationship in models and ice cores in Antarctica over the last two centuries

Marie G. P. Cavitte1, Quentin Dalaiden1, Hugues Goosse1, Jan T. M. Lenaerts2, and Elizabeth R. Thomas3 Marie G. P. Cavitte et al.
  • 1Georges Lemaître Centre for Earth and Climate Research (TECLIM), Earth and Life Institute (ELI), Université catholique deLouvain (UCL), Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
  • 2Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder CO, USA
  • 3British Antarctic Survey, Madingley Road, Cambridge, CB3 0ET, UK

Abstract. Ice cores are an important record of the past surface mass balance (SMB) of ice sheets, with SMB mitigating the ice sheets’ sea level impact over the recent decades. For the Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS), SMB is dominated by large-scale atmospheric circulation, which collects warm moist air from further north and releases it in the form of snow as widespread accumulation or focused atmospheric rivers on the continent. This implies that the snow deposited at the surface of the AIS should record strongly coupled SMB and surface air temperature (SAT) variations. Ice cores use δ18O as a proxy for SAT as they do not record SAT directly. Here, using isotope-enabled global climate models and the RACMO2.3 regional climate model, we calculate positive SMB-SAT and δ18O-SMB correlations over ∼90 % of the AIS. The high spatial resolution of the RACMO2.3 model allows us to highlight a number of areas where SMB and SAT are not correlated, and show that wind-driven processes acting locally, such as Foehn and katabatic effects, can overwhelm the large-scale atmospheric input in SMB and SAT responsible for the positive SMB-SAT correlations. We focus in particular on Dronning Maud Land, East Antarctica, where the ice promontories clearly show these wind-induced effects. However, using the PAGES2k ice core compilations of SMB and δ18O of Thomas et al. (2017) and Stenni et al. (2017), we obtain a weak correlation, on the order of 0.1, between SMB and δ18O over the past ~150 years. We obtain an equivalently weak correlation between ice core SMB and the SAT reconstruction of Nicolas and Bromwich (2014) over the past ~50 years, although the ice core sites are not spatially co-located with the areas displaying a low SMB-SAT correlation in the models. To resolve the discrepancy between the measured and modeled signals, we show that averaging the ice core records in close spatial proximity increases their SMB-SAT correlation. This increase shows that the weak measured correlation likely results from random noise present in the ice core records, but is not large enough to match the correlation calculated in the models. Our results indicate thus a positive correlation between SAT and SMB in models and ice core reconstructions but with a weaker value in observations that may be due to missing processes in models or some systematic biases in ice core data that are not removed by a simple average.

Marie G. P. Cavitte et al.

Marie G. P. Cavitte et al.


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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Surface mass balance (SMB) and surface air temperatures (SAT) are correlated at the regional scale for most of Antarctica, and SMB and δ18O. Areas with low/no correlation are where wind-processes (Foehn, katabatic wind warming and erosion) are sufficiently active to overwhelm the synoptic-scale snow accumulation. Measured in ice cores, the link between SMB and SAT/δ18O is much weaker. Random noise can be removed by core record averaging but local processes perturb the correlation systematically.
Surface mass balance (SMB) and surface air temperatures (SAT) are correlated at the regional...