Recent snowfall anomalies in Dronning Maud Land, East Antarctica, in a historical and future climate perspective

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Abstract

[1] Enhanced snowfall on the East Antarctic ice sheet is projected to significantly mitigate 21st century global sea level rise. In recent years (2009 and 2011), regionally extreme snowfall anomalies in Dronning Maud Land, in the Atlantic sector of East Antarctica, have been observed. It has been unclear, however, whether these anomalies can be ascribed to natural decadal variability, or whether they could signal the beginning of a long-term increase of snowfall. Here we use output of a regional atmospheric climate model, evaluated with available firn core records and gravimetry observations, and show that such episodes had not been seen previously in the satellite climate data era (1979). Comparisons with historical data that originate from firn cores, one with records extending back to the 18th century, confirm that accumulation anomalies of this scale have not occurred in the past ~60 years, although comparable anomalies are found further back in time. We examined several regional climate model projections, describing various warming scenarios into the 21st century. Anomalies with magnitudes similar to the recently observed ones were not present in the model output for the current climate, but were found increasingly probable toward the end of the 21st century.

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