Impact of model resolution on simulated wind, drifting snow and surface mass balance in Terre Adélie, East Antarctica

Jan T.M. Lenaerts, Michiel R. Van Den Broeke, Claudio Scarchilli, Cécile Agosta

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18 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents the impact of model resolution on the simulated wind speed, drifting snow climate and surface mass balance (SMB) of Terre Adélie and its surroundings, East Antarctica. We compare regional climate model simulations at 27 and 5.5 km resolution for the year 2009. The wind speed maxima in Terre Adélie and the narrow glacial valleys of Victoria Land are better represented at 5.5 km resolution, because the topography is better resolved. Drifting snow sublimation is >100mma-1in regions with high wind speeds. Our results indicate a strong feedback between topography, wind gradients and drifting snow erosion. As a result, SMB shows much more local spatial variability at 5.5 km resolution that is controlled by drifting snow erosion, whereas the large-scale SMB gradient is largely determined by precipitation. Drifting snow processes lead to ablation in the narrow glacial valleys of Victoria Land. The integrated SMB equals 86Gt. Although wind climate, drifting snow processes and SMB variability are better represented at 5.5 km, the area-integrated SMB is not significantly different between the simulations at 27 and 5.5km. A horizontal resolution of 27 km is sufficient to realistically simulate ice-sheet wide SMB.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)821 - 829
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number211
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth-Surface Processes

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