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Antarctic Atmospheric Rivers in the Present and Future Climates

Presentation Date
Thursday, December 14, 2023 at 2:10pm - Thursday, December 14, 2023 at 6:30pm
MC - Poster Hall A-C - South



Atmospheric rivers (ARs) are long, narrow bands of moisture that propagate poleward from the midlatitudes and occasionally reach the Antarctic Ice Sheet. Despite occurring only ~1% of the time, Antarctic ARs contribute 10% of the annual precipitation and are major drivers for heatwaves, foehn events, and surface melting on ice shelves. While snowfall is currently the dominant impact of ARs over the grounded Antarctic Ice Sheet, the relative contribution of ARs to snowfall, rainfall, and surface melt may change in a warming climate, along with the frequency and intensity of AR events themselves. Here, we use the Community Earth System Model version 2 (CESM2) Large Ensemble to detect ARs during the current period (1980–2014) and future climate (2015–2100) under the SSP370 radiative forcing scenario. We use an AR detection threshold for the current period based on the 98th percentile of the meridional component of integrated vapor transport (vIVT). To account for projected future increases in atmospheric moisture content (Clausius-Clapeyron effect) and its impacts on vIVT, we scale our AR detection threshold for the future period by the relative change in integrated water vapor compared to the present-day climatology. We then describe how the frequency, intensity, and year-to-year variability in Antarctic ARs changes by the end of the 21st century by region, with links to changes in the large-scale atmospheric circulation accompanying ARs. Finally, we quantify AR-attributed precipitation, precipitation variability, and trends in the future climate, ultimately providing an early assessment of future AR-driven changes to Antarctic surface mass balance.

Funding Program Area(s)