Local spatial variability in the occurrence of summer precipitation in the Sør Rondane Mountains, Antarctica

Ferrone, Alfonso; Vignon, Étienne; Zonato, Andrea; Berne, Alexis

During the austral summer 2019/2020, three vertically pointing K-band Doppler profilers (Micro Rain Radar PRO, MRR-PRO) were deployed along a transect across the Sør Rondane Mountains, directly south of the scientific base Princess Elisabeth Antarctica. The MRR-PRO devices were placed at locations corresponding to different stages of the interaction between the complex terrain and the typical flow associated with precipitating systems. The radar measurements, alongside information from the ERA5 reanalysis and a set of high-resolution Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) simulations, have been used to study the spatial variability in snowfall across the transect. Radar observations reveal differences in the frequency of occurrence of virga and surface precipitation above the transect. An analysis of the WRF outputs reveals the presence of a relatively dry layer above the radar locations, reaching a constant altitude of 3.5 inline-formulakm above mean sea level. Due to the complex terrain, the depth of the layer varies across the transect, affecting sublimation and the occurrence of virgae. Combined information from the ERA5 reanalysis, the WRF simulations, and ground-level measurements suggests that orographic lifting enhances precipitation above the highest mountain peaks. Finally, the analysis of the succession of virga and surface precipitation above the sites shows that, in most cases, they represent different stages of the same large-scale events. This study reveals the significant spatial variability in the occurrence of precipitation in a region of complex terrain, emphasizing the importance of collecting snowfall measurements in the mountainous regions of the Antarctic continent.

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Ferrone, Alfonso / Vignon, Étienne / Zonato, Andrea / et al: Local spatial variability in the occurrence of summer precipitation in the Sør Rondane Mountains, Antarctica. 2023. Copernicus Publications.

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