Recent precipitation decrease across the western Greenland ice sheet percolation zone

Lewis, Gabriel; Osterberg, Erich; Hawley, Robert; Marshall, Hans Peter; Meehan, Tate; Graeter, Karina; McCarthy, Forrest; Overly, Thomas; Thundercloud, Zayta; Ferris, David

The mass balance of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) in a warming climate is of critical interest in the context of future sea level rise. Increased melting in the GrIS percolation zone due to atmospheric warming over the past several decades has led to increased mass loss at lower elevations. Previous studies have hypothesized that this warming is accompanied by a precipitation increase, as would be expected from the Clausius–Clapeyron relationship, compensating for some of the melt-induced mass loss throughout the western GrIS. This study tests that hypothesis by calculating snow accumulation rates and trends across the western GrIS percolation zone, providing new accumulation rate estimates in regions with sparse in situ data or data that do not span the recent accelerating surface melt. We present accumulation records from sixteen 22–32 m long firn cores and 4436 km of ground-penetrating radar, covering the past 20–60 years of accumulation, collected across the western GrIS percolation zone as part of the Greenland Traverse for Accumulation and Climate Studies (GreenTrACS) project. Trends from both radar and firn cores, as well as commonly used regional climate models, show decreasing accumulation rates of 2.4±1.5 % a−1 over the 1996–2016 period, which we attribute to shifting storm tracks related to stronger atmospheric summer blocking over Greenland. Changes in atmospheric circulation over the past 20 years, specifically anomalously strong summertime blocking, have reduced GrIS surface mass balance through both an increase in surface melting and a decrease in accumulation rates.

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Lewis, Gabriel / Osterberg, Erich / Hawley, Robert / et al: Recent precipitation decrease across the western Greenland ice sheet percolation zone. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Gabriel Lewis et al.

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