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Julien P. Nicolas and David H. Bromwich

Abstract

High-resolution numerical weather forecasts from the Antarctic Mesoscale Prediction System (AMPS) archive are used to investigate the climate of West Antarctica (WA) during 2006–07. A comparison with observations from West Antarctic automatic weather stations confirms the skill of the model at simulating near-surface variables. AMPS cloud cover is also compared with estimates of monthly cloud fractions over Antarctica derived from spaceborne lidar measurements, revealing close agreement between both datasets. Comparison with 20-yr averages from the Interim ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim) dataset demonstrates that the 2006–07 time period as a whole is reflective of the West Antarctic climate from the last two decades. On the 2006–07 annual means computed from AMPS forecasts, the most salient feature is a tongue-shaped pattern of higher cloudiness, accumulation, and 2-m potential temperature stretching over central WA. This feature is caused by repeated intrusions of marine air inland linked to the sustained cyclonic activity in the Ross and western Amundsen Seas. It is further enhanced by the ice sheet’s topography and by the mid–low-tropospheric wind flow on either side of the central ice divide. Low pressures centered over the Ross Sea (as opposed to the Bellingshausen Sea) are found to be most effective in conveying heat and moisture into WA. This study offers a perspective on how recent and projected changes in cyclonic activity in the South Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean may affect the climate and surface mass balance of WA.

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Julien P. Nicolas and David H. Bromwich

Abstract

A reconstruction of Antarctic monthly mean near-surface temperatures spanning 1958–2012 is presented. Its primary goal is to take advantage of a recently revised key temperature record from West Antarctica (Byrd) to shed further light on multidecadal temperature changes in this region. The spatial interpolation relies on a kriging technique aided by spatiotemporal temperature covariances derived from three global reanalyses [the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Interim Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim), Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA), and Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR)]. For 1958–2012, the reconstruction yields statistically significant annual warming in the Antarctic Peninsula and virtually all of West Antarctica, but no significant temperature change in East Antarctica. Importantly, the warming is of comparable magnitude both in central West Antarctica and in most of the peninsula, rather than concentrated either in one or the other region as previous reconstructions have suggested. The Transantarctic Mountains act for the temperature trends, as a clear dividing line between East and West Antarctica, reflecting the topographic constraint on warm air advection from the Amundsen Sea basin. The reconstruction also serves to highlight spurious changes in the 1979–2009 time series of the three reanalyses that reduces the reliability of their trends, illustrating a long-standing issue in high southern latitudes. The study concludes with an examination of the influence of the southern annular mode (SAM) on Antarctic temperature trends. The results herein suggest that the trend of the SAM toward its positive phase in austral summer and fall since the 1950s has had a statistically significant cooling effect not only in East Antarctica (as already well documented) and but also (only in fall) in West Antarctica.

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Stephen P. Palm, Yuekui Yang, Vinay Kayetha, and Julien P. Nicolas

Abstract

Blowing snow is a frequent and widespread phenomenon over most of Antarctica. The transport and sublimation of blowing snow are important for the mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet, and the latter is a major contributor to the hydrological cycle in high-latitude regions. Although much is known about blowing snow from surface observations, knowledge of the thermodynamic structure of deep (>50 m) blowing-snow layers is lacking. Here, dropsonde measurements are used to investigate the temperature, moisture, and wind structure of deep blowing-snow layers over Antarctica. The temperature lapse rate within the blowing-snow layer is at times close to dry adiabatic and is on average between dry and moist adiabatic. Initiation of blowing snow causes the surface temperature to increase to a degree proportional to the depth of the blowing-snow layer. The relative humidity with respect to ice is generally largest near the surface (but less than 100%) and decreases with height, reaching a minimum near the top of the layer. These findings are at odds with the generally accepted theory that blowing-snow sublimation will cool and eventually saturate the layer. The observations support the conclusion that high levels of wind-shear-induced turbulence cause mixing and entrainment of warmer air from above the blowing-snow layer, which suppresses humidity and produces the observed well-mixed temperature structure within the layer. The results may have important consequences for understanding the mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet and the moisture budget of the atmosphere in high latitudes.

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Ryan L. Fogt, Logan N. Clark, and Julien P. Nicolas

Abstract

This study presents a new monthly pressure dataset poleward of 60°S, from 1957 to 2016, based on a kriging interpolation from observed pressure anomalies across the Antarctic continent. Overall, the reconstruction performs well when evaluated against ERA-Interim. In comparison to other reanalyses, the reconstruction has interannual variability after 1970 similar to products that span the entire twentieth century and is a marked improvement on the first-generation reanalysis products. The reconstruction also produces weaker pressure trends than the reanalysis products evaluated here, which are consistent with observations. However, the skill of the reconstruction is weaker in the South Pacific and therefore does not improve the understanding of long-term pressure variability and trends in this region, where circulation changes have been key drivers of climate variability in West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula.

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David H. Bromwich, Julien P. Nicolas, and Andrew J. Monaghan

Abstract

This study evaluates the temporal variability of the Antarctic surface mass balance, approximated as precipitation minus evaporation (PE), and Southern Ocean precipitation in five global reanalyses during 1989–2009. The datasets consist of the NCEP/U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project 2 reanalysis (NCEP-2), the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) 25-year Reanalysis (JRA-25), ECMWF Interim Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim), NASA Modern Era Retrospective-Analysis for Research and Application (MERRA), and the Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR). Reanalyses are known to be prone to spurious trends and inhomogeneities caused by changes in the observing system, especially in the data-sparse high southern latitudes. The period of study has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of satellite observations used for data assimilation.

The large positive and statistically significant trends in mean Antarctic PE and mean Southern Ocean precipitation in NCEP-2, JRA-25, and MERRA are found to be largely spurious. The origin of these artifacts varies between reanalyses. Notably, a precipitation jump in MERRA in the late 1990s coincides with the start of the assimilation of radiances from the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU). ERA-Interim and CFSR do not exhibit any significant trends. However, the potential impact of the assimilation of rain-affected radiances in ERA-Interim and inhomogeneities in CFSR pressure fields over Antarctica cast some doubt on the reliability of these two datasets.

The authors conclude that ERA-Interim likely offers the most realistic depiction of precipitation changes in high southern latitudes during 1989–2009. The range of the trends in Antarctic PE among the reanalyses is equivalent to 1 mm of sea level over 21 years, which highlights the improvements still needed in reanalysis simulations to better assess the contribution of Antarctica to sea level rise. Finally, this work argues for continuing cautious use of reanalysis datasets for climate change assessment.

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Ryan C. Scott, Julien P. Nicolas, David H. Bromwich, Joel R. Norris, and Dan Lubin

Abstract

Understanding the drivers of surface melting in West Antarctica is crucial for understanding future ice loss and global sea level rise. This study identifies atmospheric drivers of surface melt on West Antarctic ice shelves and ice sheet margins and relationships with tropical Pacific and high-latitude climate forcing using multidecadal reanalysis and satellite datasets. Physical drivers of ice melt are diagnosed by comparing satellite-observed melt patterns to anomalies of reanalysis near-surface air temperature, winds, and satellite-derived cloud cover, radiative fluxes, and sea ice concentration based on an Antarctic summer synoptic climatology spanning 1979–2017. Summer warming in West Antarctica is favored by Amundsen Sea (AS) blocking activity and a negative phase of the southern annular mode (SAM), which both correlate with El Niño conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Extensive melt events on the Ross–Amundsen sector of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) are linked to persistent, intense AS blocking anticyclones, which force intrusions of marine air over the ice sheet. Surface melting is primarily driven by enhanced downwelling longwave radiation from clouds and a warm, moist atmosphere and by turbulent mixing of sensible heat to the surface by föhn winds. Since the late 1990s, concurrent with ocean-driven WAIS mass loss, summer surface melt occurrence has increased from the Amundsen Sea Embayment to the eastern Ross Ice Shelf. We link this change to increasing anticyclonic advection of marine air into West Antarctica, amplified by increasing air–sea fluxes associated with declining sea ice concentration in the coastal Ross–Amundsen Seas.

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Megan E. Jones, David H. Bromwich, Julien P. Nicolas, Jorge Carrasco, Eva Plavcová, Xun Zou, and Sheng-Hung Wang

Abstract

Temperature trends across Antarctica over the last few decades reveal strong and statistically significant warming in West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula (AP) contrasting with no significant change overall in East Antarctica. However, recent studies have documented cooling in the AP since the late 1990s. This study aims to place temperature changes in the AP and West Antarctica into a larger spatial and temporal perspective by analyzing monthly station-based surface temperature observations since 1957 across the extratropical Southern Hemisphere, along with sea surface temperature (SST) data and mean sea level pressure reanalysis data. The results confirm statistically significant cooling in station observations and SST trends throughout the AP region since 1999. However, the full 60-yr period shows statistically significant, widespread warming across most of the Southern Hemisphere middle and high latitudes. Positive SST trends broadly reflect these warming trends, especially in the midlatitudes. After confirming the importance of the southern annular mode (SAM) on southern high-latitude climate variability, the influence is removed from the station temperature records, revealing statistically significant background warming across all of the extratropical Southern Hemisphere. Antarctic temperature trends in a suite of climate models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) are then investigated. Consistent with previous work the CMIP5 models warm Antarctica at the background temperature rate that is 2 times faster than that observed. However, removing the SAM influence from both CMIP5 and observed temperatures results in Antarctic trends that differ only modestly, perhaps due to natural multidecadal variability remaining in the observations.

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Shuyi S. Chen, Brandon W. Kerns, Nick Guy, David P. Jorgensen, Julien Delanoë, Nicolas Viltard, Christopher J. Zappa, Falko Judt, Chia-Ying Lee, and Ajda Savarin

Abstract

One of the most challenging problems in predicting the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) is the initiation of large-scale convective activity associated with the MJO over the tropical Indian Ocean. The lack of observations is a major obstacle. The Dynamics of the MJO (DYNAMO) field campaign collected unprecedented observations from air-, land-, and ship-based platforms from October 2011 to February 2012. Here we provide an overview of the aircraft observations in DYNAMO, which captured an MJO initiation event from November to December 2011. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) WP-3D aircraft was stationed at Diego Garcia and the French Falcon 20 aircraft on Gan Island in the Maldives. Observations from the two aircraft provide a unique dataset of three-dimensional structure of convective cloud systems and their environment from the flight level, airborne Doppler radar, microphysics probes, ocean surface imaging, global positioning system (GPS) dropsonde, and airborne expendable bathythermograph (AXBT) data. The aircraft observations revealed interactions among dry air, the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ), convective cloud systems, and air–sea interaction induced by convective cold pools, which may play important roles in the multiscale processes of MJO initiation. This overview focuses on some key aspects of the aircraft observations that contribute directly to better understanding of the interactions among convective cloud systems, environmental moisture, and the upper ocean during the MJO initiation over the tropical Indian Ocean. Special emphasis is on the distinct characteristics of convective cloud systems, environmental moisture and winds, air–sea fluxes, and convective cold pools during the convectively suppressed, transition/onset, and active phases of the MJO.

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M. Ades, R. Adler, Rob Allan, R. P. Allan, J. Anderson, Anthony Argüez, C. Arosio, J. A. Augustine, C. Azorin-Molina, J. Barichivich, J. Barnes, H. E. Beck, Andreas Becker, Nicolas Bellouin, Angela Benedetti, David I. Berry, Stephen Blenkinsop, Olivier. Bock, Michael G. Bosilovich, Olivier. Boucher, S. A. Buehler, Laura. Carrea, Hanne H. Christiansen, F. Chouza, John R. Christy, E.-S. Chung, Melanie Coldewey-Egbers, Gil P. Compo, Owen R. Cooper, Curt Covey, A. Crotwell, Sean M. Davis, Elvira de Eyto, Richard A. M de Jeu, B.V. VanderSat, Curtis L. DeGasperi, Doug Degenstein, Larry Di Girolamo, Martin T. Dokulil, Markus G. Donat, Wouter A. Dorigo, Imke Durre, Geoff S. Dutton, G. Duveiller, James W. Elkins, Vitali E. Fioletov, Johannes Flemming, Michael J. Foster, Richard A. Frey, Stacey M. Frith, Lucien Froidevaux, J. Garforth, S. K. Gupta, Leopold Haimberger, Brad D. Hall, Ian Harris, Andrew K Heidinger, D. L. Hemming, Shu-peng (Ben) Ho, Daan Hubert, Dale F. Hurst, I. Hüser, Antje Inness, K. Isaksen, Viju John, Philip D. Jones, J. W. Kaiser, S. Kelly, S. Khaykin, R. Kidd, Hyungiun Kim, Z. Kipling, B. M. Kraemer, D. P. Kratz, R. S. La Fuente, Xin Lan, Kathleen O. Lantz, T. Leblanc, Bailing Li, Norman G Loeb, Craig S. Long, Diego Loyola, Wlodzimierz Marszelewski, B. Martens, Linda May, Michael Mayer, M. F. McCabe, Tim R. McVicar, Carl A. Mears, W. Paul Menzel, Christopher J. Merchant, Ben R. Miller, Diego G. Miralles, Stephen A. Montzka, Colin Morice, Jens Mühle, R. Myneni, Julien P. Nicolas, Jeannette Noetzli, Tim J. Osborn, T. Park, A. Pasik, Andrew M. Paterson, Mauri S. Pelto, S. Perkins-Kirkpatrick, G. Pétron, C. Phillips, Bernard Pinty, S. Po-Chedley, L. Polvani, W. Preimesberger, M. Pulkkanen, W. J. Randel, Samuel Rémy, L. Ricciardulli, A. D. Richardson, L. Rieger, David A. Robinson, Matthew Rodell, Karen H. Rosenlof, Chris Roth, A. Rozanov, James A. Rusak, O. Rusanovskaya, T. Rutishäuser, Ahira Sánchez-Lugo, P. Sawaengphokhai, T. Scanlon, Verena Schenzinger, S. Geoffey Schladow, R. W Schlegel, Eawag Schmid, Martin, H. B. Selkirk, S. Sharma, Lei Shi, S. V. Shimaraeva, E. A. Silow, Adrian J. Simmons, C. A. Smith, Sharon L Smith, B. J. Soden, Viktoria Sofieva, T. H. Sparks, Paul W. Stackhouse Jr., Wolfgang Steinbrecht, Dimitri A. Streletskiy, G. Taha, Hagen Telg, S. J. Thackeray, M. A. Timofeyev, Kleareti Tourpali, Mari R. Tye, Ronald J. van der A, Robin, VanderSat B.V. van der Schalie, Gerard van der SchrierW. Paul, Guido R. van der Werf, Piet Verburg, Jean-Paul Vernier, Holger Vömel, Russell S. Vose, Ray Wang, Shohei G. Watanabe, Mark Weber, Gesa A. Weyhenmeyer, David Wiese, Anne C. Wilber, Jeanette D. Wild, Takmeng Wong, R. Iestyn Woolway, Xungang Yin, Lin Zhao, Guanguo Zhao, Xinjia Zhou, Jerry R. Ziemke, and Markus Ziese
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