Present-day and future Greenland Ice Sheet precipitation frequency from CloudSat observations and the Community Earth System Model

Lenaerts, Jan T. M.; Camron, M. Drew; Wyburn-Powell, Christopher R.; Kay, Jennifer E.

The dominant mass input component of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) is precipitation, whose amounts and phase are poorly constrained by observations. Here we use spaceborne radar observations from CloudSat to map the precipitation frequency and phase on the GrIS, and we use those observations, in combination with a satellite simulator to enable direct comparison between observations and model, to evaluate present-day precipitation frequency in the Community Earth System Model (CESM). The observations show that substantial variability of snowfall frequency over the GrIS exists, that snowfall occurs throughout the year, and that snowfall frequency peaks in spring and fall. Rainfall is rare over the GrIS and only occurs in regions under 2000 m elevation and in the peak summer season. Although CESM overestimates the rainfall frequency, it reproduces the spatial and seasonal variability of precipitation frequency reasonably well. Driven by the high-emission, worst-case Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5 scenario, CESM indicates that rainfall frequency will increase considerably across the GrIS, and will occur at higher elevations, potentially exposing a much larger GrIS area to rain and associated meltwater refreezing, firn warming, and reduced storage capacity. This technique can be applied to evaluate precipitation frequency in other climate models and can aid in planning future satellite campaigns.

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Lenaerts, Jan T. M. / Camron, M. Drew / Wyburn-Powell, Christopher R. / et al: Present-day and future Greenland Ice Sheet precipitation frequency from CloudSat observations and the Community Earth System Model. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Jan T. M. Lenaerts et al.

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