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

Gilbert, Ella ORCID:; Orr, Andrew ORCID:; King, John C. ORCID:; Renfrew, I.A.; Lachlan-Cope, Thomas ORCID:; Field, P.F.; Boutle, I.A.. 2020 Summertime cloud phase strongly influences surface melting on the Larsen C ice shelf, Antarctica. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 146 (729 / Part B). 1575-1589.

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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.

Item Type: Publication - Article
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Additional Keywords: cloud phase, surface energy balance, Antarctic Peninsula, surface melt, Larsen C ice shelf, regional climate modelling
Date made live: 04 Feb 2020 11:32 +0 (UTC)

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