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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-256
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-256
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 10 Dec 2019

Submitted as: research article | 10 Dec 2019

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

The added value of high resolution in estimating the surface mass balance in southern Greenland

Willem Jan van de Berg1, Erik van Meijgaard2, and Lambertus H. van Ulft2 Willem Jan van de Berg et al.
  • 1IMAU, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 2KNMI, De Bilt, the Netherlands

Abstract. The polar version of the regional climate model RACMO2, version 2.3p1, is used to study the effect of model resolution on the simulated climate and surface mass balance (SMB) of South Greenland. The model data on resolutions of 60, 20, 6.6 and 2.2 km are intercompared and compared to SMB observations using three different data refinement methods: nearest neighbour, bilinear interpolation and a statistical downscaling method utilising the local dependency of fields on elevation. Furthermore, it is estimated how the errors induced by model resolution compare to errors induced by the model physics and initialisation.

The results affirm earlier studies that SMB components which are tightly linked to elevation, like runoff, can be refined successfully, as soon as the ablation zone is reasonably well resembled in the source dataset. Precipitation fields are also highly elevation dependent, but precipitation has no systematic correlation with elevation, which inhibits statistical downscaling to work well. If refined component-wise, 20 km resolution model simulations can reproduce the SMB ablation observations almost as good as the finer resolution model simulations. Nonetheless, statistical downscaling and regional climate modelling are complementary, the best results are obtained when high resolution RACMO2 data are statistically refined. Model estimates in the accumulation zone do not benefit from statistical downscaling; hence, a resolution of about 25 km is sufficient to resolve the accumulation zone of the Greenland Ice Sheet.

Finally, additional tests show that model resolution is as important as properly resolving spatial albedo patterns, correctly initialising the firn column and uncertainties in the modelled precipitation and turbulent exchange.

Willem Jan van de Berg et al.
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The added value of high resolution in estimating the surface mass balance in southern Greenland W. J. van de Berg, E. van Meijgaard and L. van Ulft https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3568129

Willem Jan van de Berg et al.
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Short summary
In times of increasing computer power, atmospheric models that estimate the surface mass balance of the Greenland can be run with increasing resolution. However, at which resolution is the error no longer determined by the lacking resolution but by model shortcomings? In this manuscript we show that for the majority of the Southern part of the Greenland Ice Sheet, our study area, a model resolution of 20 km is sufficient although finer model resolutions are still beneficial.
In times of increasing computer power, atmospheric models that estimate the surface mass balance...
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