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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 21 Jun 2019

Submitted as: research article | 21 Jun 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

Surface mass balance downscaling through elevation classes in an Earth System Model: analysis, evaluation and impacts on the simulated climate

Raymond Sellevold1, Leonardus van Kampenhout2, Jan T. M. Lenaerts3, Brice Noël2, William H. Lipscomb4, and Miren Vizcaino1 Raymond Sellevold et al.
  • 1Geoscience and remote sensing, Delft University of Technology, Delft, the Netherlands
  • 2Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht, Utrecht University, the Netherlands
  • 3Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder CO, USA
  • 4Climate and Global Dynamics Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder CO, USA

Abstract. The modeling of ice sheets in Earth System Models (ESMs) is an active area of research with applications to future sea level rise projections and paleoclimate studies. A major challenge for the surface mass balance (SMB) modeling with ESMs arises from their coarse resolution. This paper evaluates the elevation classes (EC) method as an SMB downscaling alternative to the dynamical downscaling of regional climate models. To this end, we compare EC-simulated elevation dependent surface energy and mass balance gradients from the Community Earth System Model 1.0 (CESM1.0) with those from RACMO2.3. The EC implementation in CESM1.0 combines prognostic snow albedo, a multi-layer snow model, and elevation corrections for two atmospheric forcing variables: temperature and humidity. Despite making no corrections for incoming radiation and precipitation, we find that the EC method in CESM1.0 yields similar SMB gradients as RACMO2.3, in part due to compensating biases in snowfall, surface melt and refreezing gradients. We discuss the sensitivity of the results to the lapse rate used for the temperature correction. We also evaluate the impact of the EC method on the climate simulated by the ESM and find minor cooling over the Greenland ice sheet and Barents and Greenland Seas, which corrects a warm bias in the ESM due to topographic smoothing. Based on our diagnostic procedure to evaluate the EC method, we make several recommendations for future implementations.

Raymond Sellevold et al.
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Raymond Sellevold et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
We evaluate a downscaling method to calculate ice sheet surface mass balance with global climate models, despite their coarse resolution. We compare it with high resolution climate modelling. Despite absence of fine-scale simulation of individual energy and mass contributors, the method provides realistic vertical SMB gradients that can be used in forcing of ice sheet models e.g., for sea level projections. Also, the climate model simulation is improved with the method implemented interactively.
We evaluate a downscaling method to calculate ice sheet surface mass balance with global climate...