Summertime cloud phase strongly influences surface melting on the Larsen C ice shelf, Antarctica

Surface melting on Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves can influence ice shelf mass balance, and consequently sea level rise. We show that summertime cloud phase on the Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula strongly influences the amount of radiation received at the surface and can determine whether or not melting occurs. While previous work has separately evaluated cloud phase and the surface energy balance (SEB) during summertime over Larsen C, no previous studies have examined this relationship quantitatively. Furthermore, regional climate models frequently produce surface radiation biases related to cloud ice and liquid water content. This study uses a high‐resolution regional configuration of the UK Met Office Unified Model (MetUM) to assess the influence of cloud ice and liquid properties on the SEB, and consequently melting, over the Larsen C ice shelf. Results from a case study show that simulations producing a vertical cloud phase structure more comparable to aircraft observations exhibit smaller surface radiative biases. A configuration of the MetUM adapted to improve the simulation of cloud phase reproduces the observed surface melt most closely. During a five‐week simulation of summertime conditions, model melt biases are reduced to <2 W m−2: a four‐fold improvement on a previous study that used default MetUM settings. This demonstrates the importance of cloud phase in determining summertime melt rates on Larsen C.


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Authors: Gilbert, Ella ORCIDORCID record for Ella Gilbert, Orr, Andrew ORCIDORCID record for Andrew Orr, King, John C. ORCIDORCID record for John C. King, Renfrew, I.A., Lachlan-Cope, Thomas ORCIDORCID record for Thomas Lachlan-Cope, Field, P.F., Boutle, I.A.

On this site: Andrew Orr, Ella Gilbert, John King, Thomas Lachlan-Cope
5 June, 2020
Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society / 146
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