Surveys in Geophysics

, Volume 32, Issue 4–5, pp 475–494 | Cite as

Precipitation Changes in High Southern Latitudes from Global Reanalyses: A Cautionary Tale

Article

Abstract

The temporal consistency of the moisture fields (precipitation, evaporation and total precipitable water) from five global reanalyses is examined over Antarctica and the Southern Ocean during 1989–2009. This concern is important given that (1) global reanalyses are known to be prone to inhomogeneities and artificial trends caused by changes in the observing system, and (2) the period of study has seen a dramatic increase in the volume of satellite observations available for data assimilation. In particular, the study aims to determine whether the recent reanalyses are suitable for investigating changes in Antarctic surface mass balance. The datasets investigated consist of NCEP-2, JRA-25, ERA-Interim, MERRA and CFSR. Strong evidence of spurious changes is found in NCEP-2, JRA-25, MERRA and CFSR, although the magnitude, spatial patterns and timing of these artifacts vary between the reanalyses. MERRA exhibits a jump in Antarctic precipitation-minus-evaporation (P–E) and in Southern Ocean precipitation in the late 1990s. This jump is related to the introduction of sounding radiances from the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU). The impact of AMSU is also discernible, albeit less pronounced, in CFSR data. It is shown that ERA-Interim likely provides the most realistic depiction of the interannual variability and overall change in Antarctic P–E since 1989. We conclude that the presence of spurious changes is not a solved problem in recent global reanalyses. Caution should continue to be exercised when using these datasets for trend analyses in general, particularly in high southern latitudes.

Keywords

Surface mass balance Antarctica Southern Ocean Global reanalyses Spurious trends Hydrological cycle 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Polar Meteorology Group, Byrd Polar Research Center and Atmospheric Sciences Program, Department of GeographyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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