Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Two years of atmospheric boundary layer observations on a 45-m tower at Dome C on the Antarctic plateau

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Abstract

[1] The lower atmospheric boundary layer at Dome C on the Antarctic plateau has been continuously monitored along a 45-m tower since 2009. Two years of observations (2009 and 2010) are presented. A strong diurnal cycle is observed near the surface in summer but almost disappears at the top of the tower, indicating that the summer nocturnal inversion is very shallow. Very steep inversions reaching almost 1 °C m−1 on average along the tower are observed in winter. They are stronger and more frequent during the colder 2010 winter, reaching a maximum in a layer ~10–15 m above the surface. Winter temperature is characterized by strong synoptic variability. An extreme warm event occurred in July 2009. The temperature reached −30 °C, typical of midsummer weather. Meteorological analyses which agree with the observations near the surface confirm that heat is propagated downward from higher elevations. A high total water column indicates moist air masses aloft originating from the lower latitudes. The coldest temperatures and strongest inversions are associated with characteristic synoptic patterns and a particularly dry atmosphere. Measurement of moisture in the clean and cold Antarctic plateau atmosphere is a challenging task. Supersaturations are very likely but are not revealed by the observations. This is possibly an instrumental artifact that would affect other moisture measurements made in similar conditions. In spite of this, such observations offer a stringent test of the robustness of the polar boundary layer in meteorological and climate models, addressing a major concern raised in the IPCC 2007 report.

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