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Keywords:

  • Antarctica;
  • climate;
  • ice cores;
  • precipitation

Abstract

An extreme precipitation event that influenced almost the whole polar plateau of Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica, is investigated using Antarctic Mesoscale Prediction System archive data. For the first time a high-resolution atmospheric model especially adapted for polar regions was used for such a study in Dronning Maud Land. The outstanding event of 21–25 February 2003 was connected to a strong north-westerly flow, caused by a blocking high above eastern Dronning Maud Land, that persisted for several days and brought unusually large levels of moisture to the Antarctic Plateau. This weather situation is most effective in bringing precipitation to high-altitude interior Antarctic ice-core drilling sites, where precipitation in the form of diamond dust usually dominates. However, a few such precipitation events per year can account for a large percentage of the annual accumulation, which can cause a strong bias in ice-core data. Additionally, increased temperatures and wind speeds during these events need to be taken into account for the correct climatic interpretation of ice cores. A better understanding of the frequency of occurrence of intermittent precipitation in the interior of Antarctica in past and future climates is necessary for both palaeoclimatological studies and estimates of future sea-level change.