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Atmospheric moisture budget over Antarctica and the Southern Ocean based on the ERA-40 reanalysis

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Abstract

The atmospheric moisture budget over Antarctica and the Southern Ocean was analysed for the period 1979–2001 on the basis of the ERA-40 reanalysis of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. Meridional transport by transient eddies makes the largest contribution to the southward water vapour transport. The mean meridional circulation contributes to the northward transport in the Antarctic coastal areas, but this effect is compensated by the southward transport by stationary eddies. The convergence of meridional water vapour transport is at its largest at 64–68°S, while the convergence of zonal transport is regionally important in areas of high cyclolysis. Inter-annual variations in water vapour transport are related to the southern annular mode (SAM). The eastward transport has a significant (95% confidence level) positive correlation with the SAM index, while the northward transport has a significant negative correlation with SAM near 60°S. Hydrological balance is well-achieved in the ERA-40 reanalysis: the difference between the water vapour flux convergence (based on analysis) and the net precipitation (precipitation minus evaporation, based on 24-h forecasts) is only 13 mm yr−1 (3%) over the Southern Ocean and − 8 mm yr−1 (5%) over the continental ice sheet. Over the open ocean, the analysis methodology favours the accuracy of the flux convergence. For the whole study region, the annual mean flux convergence exceeded net precipitation by 11 mm yr−1 (3%). The ERA-40 result for the mean precipitation over the Antarctic continental ice sheet in 1979–2001 is 177 ± 8 mm yr−1, while previous estimates range from 173 to 215 mm yr−1. For the period 1979–2001, the ERA-40 data do not show any statistically significant trend in precipitation over the Antarctic grounded ice sheet and ice shelves. From the ERA-40 data, the annual average net evaporation (evaporation minus condensation) is positive over the whole continent. Copyright © 2008 Royal Meteorological Society

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