Regional Greenland Accumulation Variability from Operation IceBridge Airborne Accumulation Radar
Gabriel Lewis1, Erich Osterberg1, Robert Hawley1, Brian Whitmore1, and Hans Peter Marshall21Department of Earth Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA 2Geosciences Department, Boise State University, Boise, ID, USA
Received: 22 Oct 2016 – Accepted for review: 06 Nov 2016 – Discussion started: 14 Nov 2016
Abstract. The mass balance of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) in a warming climate is of critical interest to scientists and the general public in the context of future sea-level rise. An improved understanding of temporal and spatial variability of snow accumulation will reduce uncertainties in GIS mass balance models and improve projections of Greenland's contribution to sea-level rise, currently estimated at 0.089 ± 0.03 m by 2100. Here we analyze 25 NASA Operation IceBridge Accumulation Radar flights totaling > 17 700 km from 2013–2014 to determine snow accumulation in the GIS dry snow and percolation zones over the past 100–300 years. IceBridge accumulation rates are calculated and used to validate accumulation rates from three regional climate models. Averaged over all 25 flights, the RMS difference between the models and IceBridge accumulation is between 0.037 ± 0.022 and 0.064 ± 0.033 m w.e. a−1, although each model shows significantly larger differences from IceBridge accumulation on a regional basis. In the central northern region, for example, the Regional Atmospheric Climate MOdel (RACMO2) underestimates by 26.9 ± 4.5 %, while in the southeast region the Modèle Atmosphérique Régional (MAR) overestimates by as much as 35.5 ± 6.8 %. Our results indicate that these regional differences between model and IceBridge accumulation are large enough to significantly alter GIS surface mass balance estimates. Empirical orthogonality function analysis suggests that the first two principal components account for 33 % and 18 % of the variance and correlate with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) and wintertime North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), respectively. From 1976–2014 accumulation increased over most of the ice sheet's interior, consistent with the response to a positive AMO trend over this period. Regions that disagree strongest with climate models are those in which we have the fewest IceBridge data points, requiring additional in situ measurements to verify model uncertainties.
Lewis, G., Osterberg, E., Hawley, R., Whitmore, B., and Marshall, H. P.: Regional Greenland Accumulation Variability from Operation IceBridge Airborne Accumulation Radar, The Cryosphere Discuss., doi:10.5194/tc-2016-248, in review, 2016.