Atmospheric river impacts on the surface energy budget of the Greenland Ice Sheet

Authors: Kyle Mattingly*, University of Georgia, Thomas Mote, University of Georgia
Topics: Climatology and Meteorology, Cryosphere, Polar Regions
Keywords: Greenland, polar geography, cryosphere, climatology, atmospheric rivers
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Regent, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) has been losing mass in recent decades, with an acceleration in its contribution to global sea level rise since 2000. Several notable episodes of widespread GrIS melt have coincided with intense poleward moisture transport by “atmospheric rivers” (ARs), and recent research has confirmed clear but complex links between strong AR events and anomalous fluctuations in GrIS surface mass balance (SMB). AR impacts result in widespread positive GrIS melt anomalies during the warm season. However, the net effect of warm-season AR events on SMB is typically negative only in the low-elevation ablation zone of the GrIS due to the enhanced snow accumulation that ARs also induce, and most ARs that occur outside the melt season cause a spatially uniform increase in GrIS SMB.

In this study, we explore the physical processes governing the complex GrIS SMB response to AR events by analyzing how ARs affect clouds and the surface energy budget over Greenland. We compile a long-term (1980–2016) AR catalog from the MERRA-2 reanalysis dataset, then examine the impacts of atmospheric moisture transport on cloud properties and the surface energy budget over the GrIS using reanalysis data, the Modèle Atmosphérique Régional (MAR) regional climate model, the NASA/GEWEX Surface Radiation Budget dataset, and various satellite-derived cloud products. We particularly focus on the changes in cloud properties and downwelling longwave radiation induced by moisture transport events, as previous studies suggest that these processes play a key role in melting of both the GrIS and Arctic sea ice.

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