• Open Access

Comprehensive evaluation of polar weather research and forecasting model performance in the Antarctic



[1] Recent versions of the Polar Weather Research and Forecasting model are evaluated over the Antarctic to assess the impact of model improvements, resolution, large-scale circulation variability, and uncertainty in initial and lateral boundary conditions. The model skill differs more between forecasts using different sources of lateral boundary data than between forecasts from different model versions or simulated years. Using the ERA-Interim reanalysis for initial and lateral boundary conditions produces the best skill. The forecasts have a cold summer and a warm winter bias in 2 m air temperatures, with similar but smaller bias in dew point temperatures. Upper air temperature biases are small and remain less than 1 °C except at the tropopause in summer. Geopotential height biases increase with height in both seasons. Deficient downward longwave radiation in all seasons and an under representation of clouds enhance radiative loss, leading to the cold summer bias. Excess summer surface incident shortwave radiation plays a secondary role, because 80% of it is reflected, leading to greater skill for clear compared with cloudy skies. The positive wind speed bias produces a warm surface bias in winter resulting from anomalously large downward flux of sensible heat toward the surface. Low temperatures on the continent limit sublimation and hence the precipitable water amounts over the ice sheet. ERA-Interim experiments with higher precipitable water showed reduced biases in downwelling shortwave and longwave radiation. Increasing horizontal resolution from 60 to 15 km improves the skill of surface wind forecasts.