Meteorological regimes and accumulation patterns at Utsteinen, Dronning Maud Land, East Antarctica: Analysis of two contrasting years



[1] Since February 2009, an automatic weather station (AWS) has been operating near Utsteinen Nunatak, north of the Sør Rondane Mountains, in Dronning Maud Land at the ascent to the East Antarctic Plateau. This paper gives an assessment of the meteorological conditions, radiative fluxes, and snow accumulation for the first 2 years of operation, 2009 to 2010, analyzed in terms of meteorological regimes. Three major meteorological regimes—cold katabatic, warm synoptic, and transitional synoptic—are identified using cluster analysis based on five parameters derived from the AWS measurements (wind speed, specific humidity, near-surface temperature inversion, surface pressure, and incoming longwave flux indicative of cloud forcing). For its location, the relatively mild climate at Utsteinen can be explained by the high frequency of synoptic events (observed 41%–48% of the time), and a lack of drainage of cold air from the plateau due to mountain sheltering. During the cold katabatic regime, a strong surface cooling leads to a strong near-surface temperature inversion buildup. A large difference in accumulation is recorded by the AWS for the first 2 years: 235 mm water equivalent in 2009 and 27 mm water equivalent in 2010. Several large accumulation events during the warm synoptic regime occurring mainly in winter were responsible for the majority of the accumulation in 2009. Mostly, small accumulation events occurred during 2010, frequently followed by snow removal. This interannual variability in snow accumulation at the site is related to the intensity of the local synoptic events as recorded by meteorological regime characteristics.