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Reexamination of the Near-Surface Airflow over the Antarctic Continent and Implications on Atmospheric Circulations at High Southern Latitudes

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Science, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming
  • | 2 Polar Meteorology Group, Byrd Polar Research Center, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
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Abstract

Previous work has shown that winds in the lower atmosphere over the Antarctic continent are among the most persistent on earth with directions coupled to the underlying ice topography. In 1987, Parish and Bromwich used a diagnostic model to depict details of the Antarctic near-surface airflow. A radially outward drainage pattern off the highest elevations of the ice sheets was displayed with wind speeds that generally increase from the high interior to the coast. These winds are often referred to as “katabatic,” with the implication that they are driven by radiational cooling of near-surface air over the sloping ice terrain. It has been shown that the Antarctic orography constrains the low-level wind regime through other forcing mechanisms as well. Dynamics of the lower atmosphere have been investigated increasingly by the use of numerical models since the observational network over the Antarctic remains quite sparse. Real-time numerical weather prediction for the U.S. Antarctic Program has been ongoing since the 2000–01 austral summer season via the Antarctic Mesoscale Prediction System (AMPS). AMPS output, which is based on a polar optimized version of the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesoscale Model, is used for a 1-yr period from June 2003 to May 2004 to investigate the mean annual and seasonal airflow patterns over the Antarctic continent to compare with previous streamline depictions. Divergent outflow from atop the continental interior implies that subsidence must exist over the continent and a direct thermal circulation over the high southern latitudes results. Estimates of the north–south mass fluxes are obtained from the mean airflow patterns to infer the influence of the elevated ice sheets on the mean meridional circulation over Antarctica.

Corresponding author address: Thomas R. Parish, Department of Atmospheric Science, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071. Email: parish@uwyo.edu

Abstract

Previous work has shown that winds in the lower atmosphere over the Antarctic continent are among the most persistent on earth with directions coupled to the underlying ice topography. In 1987, Parish and Bromwich used a diagnostic model to depict details of the Antarctic near-surface airflow. A radially outward drainage pattern off the highest elevations of the ice sheets was displayed with wind speeds that generally increase from the high interior to the coast. These winds are often referred to as “katabatic,” with the implication that they are driven by radiational cooling of near-surface air over the sloping ice terrain. It has been shown that the Antarctic orography constrains the low-level wind regime through other forcing mechanisms as well. Dynamics of the lower atmosphere have been investigated increasingly by the use of numerical models since the observational network over the Antarctic remains quite sparse. Real-time numerical weather prediction for the U.S. Antarctic Program has been ongoing since the 2000–01 austral summer season via the Antarctic Mesoscale Prediction System (AMPS). AMPS output, which is based on a polar optimized version of the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University–National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesoscale Model, is used for a 1-yr period from June 2003 to May 2004 to investigate the mean annual and seasonal airflow patterns over the Antarctic continent to compare with previous streamline depictions. Divergent outflow from atop the continental interior implies that subsidence must exist over the continent and a direct thermal circulation over the high southern latitudes results. Estimates of the north–south mass fluxes are obtained from the mean airflow patterns to infer the influence of the elevated ice sheets on the mean meridional circulation over Antarctica.

Corresponding author address: Thomas R. Parish, Department of Atmospheric Science, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071. Email: parish@uwyo.edu

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