Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2021-263
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2021-263

  03 Sep 2021

03 Sep 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Clouds drive differences in future surface melt over the Antarctic ice shelves

Christoph Kittel1, Charles Amory2, Stefan Hofer3, Cécile Agosta4, Nicolas C. Jourdain2, Ella Gilbert5, Louis Le Toumelin6, Hubert Gallée2, and Xavier Fettweis1 Christoph Kittel et al.
  • 1Department of Geography, UR SPHERES, University of Liège, Belgium
  • 2Univ. Grenoble Alpes/CNRS/IRD/G-INP, IGE, Grenoble, France
  • 3Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  • 4Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, LSCE-IPSL, CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, Université Paris-Saclay, Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 5Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Whiteknights Rd, Reading, United Kingdom
  • 6Univ. Grenoble Alpes, Université de Toulouse, Météo-France, CNRS, CNRM, Centre d’Études de la Neige, Grenoble, France

Abstract. Recent warm atmospheric conditions have damaged the ice shelves of the Antarctic Peninsula through surface melt and hydrofracturing, and could potentially initiate future collapse of other Antarctic ice shelves. However, model projections with similar greenhouse gas scenarios suggest large differences in cumulative 21st century surface melting. So far it remains unclear whether these differences are due to variations in warming rates in individual models, or whether local surface energy budget feedbacks could also play a notable role. Here we use the polar-oriented regional climate model MAR to study the physical mechanisms that will control future melt over the Antarctic ice shelves in high-emission scenarios RCP8.5 and SSP585. We show that clouds enhance future surface melt by increasing the atmospheric emissivity and longwave radiation towards the surface. Furthermore, we highlight that differences in meltwater production for the same climate warming rate depend on cloud properties and particularly cloud phase. Clouds containing a larger amount of liquid water lead to stronger melt, subsequently favouring the absorption of solar radiation due to the snow-melt-albedo feedback. By increasing melt differences over the ice shelves in the next decades, liquid-containing clouds could be a major source of uncertainties related to the future Antarctic contribution to sea level rise.

Christoph Kittel et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2021-263', Anonymous Referee #1, 08 Oct 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2021-263', Rajashree Datta, 11 Oct 2021
  • RC3: 'Comment on tc-2021-263', Anonymous Referee #3, 14 Oct 2021

Christoph Kittel et al.

Christoph Kittel et al.

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Short summary
Model projections with similar greenhouse gas scenarios suggest large differences in future surface melting. So far it remains unclear whether these differences are due to variations in warming rates in individual models, or whether local surface energy budget feedbacks could also play a notable role. We show that clouds containing a larger amount of liquid water lead to stronger melt, subsequently favouring the absorption of solar radiation due to the snow-melt-albedo feedback.