Modeling ice sheet change in Antarctica
Modeling efforts provide new data on the effects of climate change in Antarctica.
Between 1998 and 2016, warming in Antarctica has been rapid and significant. Recent observations also reveal increases in snowfall in western Queen Maud Land, East Antarctica that are unprecedented over the past two millennia. To investigate these changes, a team of NSF-sponsored researchers and NASA scientists merged observation-based NSF-funded research with global modeling efforts that benefited from NASA satellite and airborne-based data1. Researchers determined that models were underestimating snow accumulation and temperature increases in this region, with implications for sea level rise estimates based on contributions from the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. Updated climate model projections suggest that additional snowfall over Antarctica, largely due to atmospheric warming, is expected to partly offset dynamic ice losses by the end of the 21st century2. However, even small variations in the modeled snowfall accumulation rates created great uncertainty about the balance of ice loss and accumulation in Antarctica. The mitigating impact of higher snowfall rates is therefore not fully resolved, indicating a need for improved evaluation of global atmospheric model performance in Antarctica.
1 Medley, B., J.R. McConnell, T.A. Neumann, C.H. Reijmer, N. Chellman, M. Sigl, S. Kipfstuhl, 2017. Temperature and snowfall in western Queen Maud Land increasing faster than climate model projections. Geophysical Research Letters, https://doi.org/10.1002/2017/GL075992