Satellite-based estimates of Antarctic surface meltwater fluxes

Luke D. Trusel, Karen E. Frey, Sarah B. Das, Peter Kuipers Munneke, Michiel R. Van Den Broeke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


This study generates novel satellite-derived estimates of Antarctic-wide annual (1999-2009) surface meltwater production using an empirical relationship between radar backscatter from the QuikSCAT (QSCAT) satellite and melt calculated from in situ energy balance observations. The resulting QSCAT-derived melt fluxes significantly agree with output from the regional climate model RACMO2.1 and with independent ground-based observations. The high-resolution (4.45 km) QSCAT-based melt fluxes uniquely detect interannually persistent and intense melt (>400 mm water equivalent (w.e.) year-1) on interior Larsen C Ice Shelf that is not simulated by RACMO2.1. This supports a growing understanding of the importance of a föhn effect in this region and quantifies the resulting locally enhanced melting that is spatially consistent with recently observed Larsen C thinning. These new results highlight important cryosphere-climate interactions and processes that are presently not fully captured by the coarser-resolution (27 km) regional climate model. Key Points Novel satellite-based estimates of Antarctic surface meltwater production Broad agreement among satellite, ground, and climate model melt results High melt on inner Larsen C Ice Shelf likely results from a föhn effect

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6148-6153
Number of pages6
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 16 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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