27 Jan 2021

27 Jan 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

Reconstruction of daily snowfall accumulation at 5.5 km resolution over Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica, from 1850 to 2014 using an analog-based downscaling technique

Nicolas Ghilain1, Stéphane Vannitsem1, Quentin Dalaiden2, Hugues Goosse2, Lesley De Cruz1, and Wenguang Wei3 Nicolas Ghilain et al.
  • 1Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium, Brussels, Belgium
  • 2Georges Lemaître Centre for Earth and Climate Research, Earth and Life Institute, Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
  • 3Key Laboratory of Regional Climate–Environment for Temperate East Asia, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

Abstract. The surface mass balance (SMB) over the Antarctic Ice Sheet displays large temporal and spatial variations. Due to the complex Antarctic topography, modelling the climate at high resolution is crucial to accurately represent the dynamics of SMB. While ice core records provide a means to infer the SMB over centuries, the view is very spatially constrained. General circulation models (GCMs) estimate its spatial distribution over centuries, but with a resolution that is too coarse to capture the large variations due to local orographic effects. We have therefore explored a methodology to statistically downscale snowfall accumulation, the primary driver of SMB, from climate model historical simulations (1850–present day) over the coastal region of Dronning Maud Land. An analog method is set up over a period of 30 years with the ERA-Interim and ERA5 reanalyses (1979–2010 AD) and associated with snowfall daily accumulation forecasts from the Regional Atmospheric Climate Model (RACMO2.3) at 5.5 km spatial resolution over Dronning Maud in East Antarctica. The same method is then applied to the period from 1850 to present day using an ensemble of ten members from the CESM2 model. This method enables to derive a spatial distribution of the accumulation of snowfall, the principal driver of the SMB variability over the region. A new dataset of daily and yearly snowfall accumulation based on this methodology is presented in this paper (MASS2ANT dataset,, Ghilain et al. (2021)), along with comparisons with ice core data and available spatial reconstructions. It offers a more detailed spatio-temporal view of the changes over the past 150 years compared to other available datasets, allowing a possible connection with the ice core records, and provides information that may be useful in identifying the large-scale patterns associated to the local precipitation conditions and their changes over the past century.

Nicolas Ghilain et al.

Status: open (until 28 May 2021)

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Nicolas Ghilain et al.

Data sets

MASS2ANT Snowfall Dataset (Downscaling @5.5km over Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica, 1850 - 2014) Ghilain, N., Vannitsem, S., Dalaiden, Q., Goosse, H., and De Cruz, L.

Nicolas Ghilain et al.


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Short summary
Modelling the climate at high resolution is crucial to represent the snowfall accumulation over the complex orography of Antarctic coast. While ice cores provide a view constrained spatially but over centuries, climate models can give insight into its spatial distribution, either at high resolution on a short period, or conversely. Here, we downscaled snowfall accumulation from climate model historical simulations (1850–present day) over Dronning Maud Land at 5.5 km using a statistical method.