Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

The role of snow-surface coupling, radiation, and turbulent mixing in modeling a stable boundary layer over Arctic sea ice


Corresponding author: H. A. M. Sterk, Meteorology and Air Quality Section, Wageningen University, PO Box 47, 6700 AA, Wageningen, The Netherlands. (


[1] To enhance the understanding of the impact of small-scale processes in the polar climate, this study focuses on the relative role of snow-surface coupling, radiation and turbulent mixing in an Arctic stable boundary layer. We extend the GABLS1 (GEWEX Atmospheric Boundary-Layer Study 1) model intercomparison for turbulent mixing with the other relevant physical processes in the stable boundary layer over sea ice. We use the Single Column Model (SCM) version of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) mesoscale meteorological model and run different combinations of boundary layer and radiation schemes, using a state-of-the art land surface scheme. With this intercomparison of schemes, we confirm a wide variety in the state of the atmosphere and the surface variables for the selected parameterization schemes. To understand this variety, a sensitivity analysis for one particular combination of parameterization schemes is performed, using a novel analysis method of process diagrams. The variation between the sensitivity runs indicates a relative orientation of model sensitivities to variations in each of the governing processes and these can explain the variety of model results obtained in the intercomparison of different parameterization schemes. Moreover, we apply the same method for several geostrophic wind speeds to represent a large range of synoptic conditions. Results indicate a shift in process significance for different wind regimes. For low wind regimes, the model sensitivity is larger for surface coupling and radiation, while for high wind speeds, the largest sensitivity is found for the turbulent mixing process. An interesting non-linear feature was found for turbulent mixing for frequently occurring wind speeds and low wind speed cases, where the 2 m temperature increases for decreased amounts of mixing.