Climate Dynamics

, Volume 44, Issue 7–8, pp 2067–2078 | Cite as

Precipitation pathways for five new ice core sites in Ellsworth Land, West Antarctica

  • Elizabeth R. ThomasEmail author
  • Thomas J. Bracegirdle


Ice cores provide a wealth of information about past climate and atmospheric circulation however a good understanding of the precipitation patterns, potential source regions and transport pathways is essential in their interpretation. Here we investigate the precipitation pathways for a transect of five new ice cores drilled in the southern Antarctic Peninsula and Ellsworth Land. We utilize in situ observations from automatic weather stations to confirm that the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts ERA-Interim reanalysis data adequately captures annual and sub-annual variability, with evidence of a slight cold bias in the 2 m temperatures. Back trajectory analysis, from the British Atmospheric Data Centre trajectory service, reveals that warm and snowy years are associated with air masses that originate (5 days before reaching the site) from the Amundsen-Bellingshausen Sea, while cold and dry years are associated with air masses from the Antarctic continent. There is a clear seasonal migration in the trajectories at each site, reflecting the east to west migration of the Amundsen Sea Low, known to have a strong influence on climate in this region.


Antarctica Climate variability Ice cores Precipitation Back trajectories 



This work was funded by the British Antarctic Survey core programme and part funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (Grant NE/J020710/1). We would like to thank ECMWF for the reanalysis data, BADC for their trajectory service, the Rothera Met team (S. Colwell and others) for deploying the AWS and D. Bromwich and an anonymous reviewer for their valued suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.British Antarctic SurveyCambridgeUK

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