Modelling the climate and surface mass balance of polar ice sheets using RACMO2 - Part 2: Antarctica (1979-2016)

Jan Melchior Van Wessem, Willem Jan Van De Berg, Brice P.Y. Noël, Erik Van Meijgaard, Charles Amory, Gerit Birnbaum, Constantijn L. Jakobs, Konstantin Krüger, Jan T.M. Lenaerts, Stef Lhermitte, Stefan R.M. Ligtenberg, Brooke Medley, Carleen H. Reijmer, Kristof Van Tricht, Luke D. Trusel, Lambertus H. Van Ulft, Bert Wouters, Jan Wuite, Michiel R. Van Den Broeke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

272 Scopus citations


We evaluate modelled Antarctic ice sheet (AIS) near-surface climate, surface mass balance (SMB) and surface energy balance (SEB) from the updated polar version of the regional atmospheric climate model, RACMO2 (1979-2016). The updated model, referred to as RACMO2.3p2, incorporates upper-air relaxation, a revised topography, tuned parameters in the cloud scheme to generate more precipitation towards the AIS interior and modified snow properties reducing drifting snow sublimation and increasing surface snowmelt.

Comparisons of RACMO2 model output with several independent observational data show that the existing biases in AIS temperature, radiative fluxes and SMB components are further reduced with respect to the previous model version. The model-integrated annual average SMB for the ice sheet including ice shelves (minus the Antarctic Peninsula, AP) now amounts to 2229ĝ€Gtĝ€yĝ'1, with an interannual variability of 109ĝ€Gtĝ€yĝ'1. The largest improvement is found in modelled surface snowmelt, which now compares well with satellite and weather station observations. For the high-resolution ( ĝ1/4 ĝ€5.5ĝ€km) AP simulation, results remain comparable to earlier studies.

The updated model provides a new, high-resolution data set of the contemporary near-surface climate and SMB of the AIS; this model version will be used for future climate scenario projections in a forthcoming study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1479-1498
Number of pages20
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 20 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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