Climate Dynamics

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 867-884

First online:

Future surface mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet and its influence on sea level change, simulated by a regional atmospheric climate model

  • S. R. M. LigtenbergAffiliated withIMAU, Universiteit Utrecht Email author 
  • , W. J. van de BergAffiliated withIMAU, Universiteit Utrecht
  • , M. R. van den BroekeAffiliated withIMAU, Universiteit Utrecht
  • , J. G. L. RaeAffiliated withMet Office, Hadley Centre
  • , E. van MeijgaardAffiliated withKNMI

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A regional atmospheric climate model with multi-layer snow module (RACMO2) is forced at the lateral boundaries by global climate model (GCM) data to assess the future climate and surface mass balance (SMB) of the Antarctic ice sheet (AIS). Two different GCMs (ECHAM5 until 2100 and HadCM3 until 2200) and two different emission scenarios (A1B and E1) are used as forcing to capture a realistic range in future climate states. Simulated ice sheet averaged 2 m air temperature (T2m) increases (1.8–3.0 K in 2100 and 2.4–5.3 K in 2200), simultaneously and with the same magnitude as GCM simulated T2m. The SMB and its components increase in magnitude, as they are directly influenced by the temperature increase. Changes in atmospheric circulation around Antarctica play a minor role in future SMB changes. During the next two centuries, the projected increase in liquid water flux from rainfall and snowmelt, together 60–200 Gt year−1, will mostly refreeze in the snow pack, so runoff remains small (10–40 Gt year−1). Sublimation increases by 25–50 %, but remains an order of magnitude smaller than snowfall. The increase in snowfall mainly determines future changes in SMB on the AIS: 6–16 % in 2100 and 8–25 % in 2200. Without any ice dynamical response, this would result in an eustatic sea level drop of 20–43 mm in 2100 and 73–163 mm in 2200, compared to the twentieth century. Averaged over the AIS, a strong relation between \(\Updelta\)SMB and \(\Updelta\hbox{T}_{2{\rm m}}\) of 98 ± 5 Gt w.e. year−1 K−1 is found.


Antarctica Future surface mass balance Sea level rise