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Temperature and precipitation projections for the Antarctic Peninsula over the next two decades: contrasting global and regional climate model simulations


This study presents near future (2020–2044) temperature and precipitation changes over the Antarctic Peninsula under the high-emission scenario (RCP8.5). We make use of historical and projected simulations from 19 global climate models (GCMs) participating in Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5). We compare and contrast GCMs projections with two groups of regional climate model simulations (RCMs): (1) high resolution (15-km) simulations performed with Polar-WRF model forced with bias-corrected NCAR-CESM1 (NC-CORR) over the Antarctic Peninsula, (2) medium resolution (50-km) simulations of KNMI-RACMO21P forced with EC-EARTH (EC) obtained from the CORDEX-Antarctica. A further comparison of historical simulations (1981–2005) with respect to ERA5 reanalysis is also included for circulation patterns and near-surface temperature climatology. In general, both RCM boundary conditions represent well the main circulation patterns of the historical period. Nonetheless, there are important differences in projections such as a notable deepening and weakening of the Amundsen Sea Low in EC and NC-CORR, respectively. Mean annual near-surface temperatures are projected to increase by about 0.5–1.5 \(^{\circ }\)C across the entire peninsula. Temperature increase is more substantial in autumn and winter (\(\sim \) 2 \(^{\circ }\)C). Following opposite circulation pattern changes, both EC and NC-CORR exhibit different warming rates, indicating a possible continuation of natural decadal variability. Although generally showing similar temperature changes, RCM projections show less warming and a smaller increase in melt days in the Larsen Ice Shelf compared to their respective driving fields. Regarding precipitation, there is a broad agreement among the simulations, indicating an increase in mean annual precipitation (\(\sim \) 5 to 10%). However, RCMs show some notable differences over the Larsen Ice Shelf where total precipitation decreases (for RACMO) and shows a small increase in rain frequency. We conclude that it seems still difficult to get consistent projections from GCMs for the Antarctic Peninsula as depicted in both RCM boundary conditions. In addition, dominant and common changes from the boundary conditions are largely evident in the RCM simulations. We argue that added value of RCM projections is driven by processes shaped by finer local details and different physics schemes that are introduced by RCMs, particularly over the Larsen Ice Shelf.

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This work was funded by ANID-FONDAP-15110009. Deniz Bozkurt acknowledges support from ANID-CONICYT-PAI-77190080, ANID-PIA-Anillo INACH ACT192057 and ANID-FONDECYT-11200101. Contribution number 1597 of Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center. David Bromwich was supported by NSF Grant 1823135. Jorge Carrasco acknowledges support from ANID-FONDECYT-1191932. Polar-WRF simulations were performed within a project entitled “Simulaciones climáticas regionales para el continente Antártico y territorio insular Chileno” funded by Chilean Ministry of Environment. This research was partially supported by the Basal Grant AFB 170001 and the supercomputing infrastructure of the NLHPC (ECM-02:Powered@NLHPC). We acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme,Working Group on Regional Climate, and the Working Group on Coupled Modelling, former coordinating body of CORDEX and responsible panel for CMIP5. We thank the NCAR for providing CESM data in WRF intermediate data format. We also thank the KNMI for producing and making available RACMO model output. The authors appreciate the support of Amazon Web Services (AWS) for the grants PS\(\_\)R\(\_\)FY2019\(\_\)Q1\(\_\)CR2 and PS\(\_\)R\(\_\)FY2019\(\_\)Q2\(\_\)CR2 allowing us to execute the Polar-WRF simulations on the AWS cloud infrastructure. We appreciate the support from Juan Carlos Maureira at Center for Mathematical Modeling, University of Chile for execution of model simulations. We are thankful to Francisca Muñoz, Nancy Valdebenito and Mirko Del Hoyo at CR2 for post-processing of Polar-WRF simulations.

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Correspondence to Deniz Bozkurt.

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Bozkurt, D., Bromwich, D.H., Carrasco, J. et al. Temperature and precipitation projections for the Antarctic Peninsula over the next two decades: contrasting global and regional climate model simulations. Clim Dyn 56, 3853–3874 (2021).

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  • Model evaluation
  • Antarctica
  • Dynamical downscaling
  • Climate change
  • Added value
  • Temperature extremes
  • Larsen Ice Shelf