Improved representation of East Antarctic surface mass balance in a regional atmospheric climate model

J. M. Van Wessem*, C. H. Reijmer, M. Morlighem, J. Mouginot, E. Rignot, B. Medley, I. Joughin, B. Wouters, M. A. Depoorter, J. L. Bamber, J. T M Lenaerts, W. J. Van De Berg, M. R. Van Den Broeke, E. Van Meijgaard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

197 Citations (Scopus)


This study evaluates the impact of a recent upgrade in the physics package of the regional atmospheric climate model RACMO2 on the simulated surface mass balance (SMB) of the Antarctic ice sheet. The modelled SMB increases, in particular over the grounded ice sheet of East Antarctica (+44Gt a-1), with a small change in West Antarctica. This mainly results from an increase in precipitation, which is explained by changes in the cloud microphysics, including a new parameterization for ice cloud supersaturation, and changes in large-scale circulation patterns, which alter topographically forced precipitation. The spatial changes in SMB are evaluated using 3234 in situ SMB observations and ice-balance velocities, and the temporal variability using GRACE satellite retrievals. The in situ observations and balance velocities show a clear improvement of the spatial representation of the SMB in the interior of East Antarctica, which has become considerably wetter. No improvements are seen for West Antarctica and the coastal regions. A comparison of model SMB temporal variability with GRACE satellite retrievals shows no significant change in performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)761-770
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number222
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Accumulation
  • Atmosphere/ice/ocean interactions
  • Ice and climate
  • Ice velocity
  • Surface mass budget


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