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Collaborative Research: Decoding & Predicting Antarctic Surface Melt Dynamics with Observations, Regional Atmospheric Modeling and GCMs

The presence of ice ponds from surface melting of glacial ice can be a significant threshold in assessing the stability of ice sheets, and their overall response to a warming climate. Snow melt has a much reduced albedo, leading to additional seasonal melting from warming insolation. Water run-off not only contributes to the mass loss of ice sheets directly, but meltwater reaching the glacial ice bed may lubricate faster flow of ice sheets towards the ocean. Surficial meltwater may also reach the grounding lines of glacial ice through the wedging open of existing crevasses. The occurrence and amount of meltwater refreeze has even been suggested as a paleo proxy of near-surface atmospheric temperature regimes. Using contemporary remote sensing (microwave) satellite assessment of surface melt occurrence and extent, the predictive skill of regional meteorological models and reanalyses (e.g. WRF, ERA-Interim) to describe the synoptic conditions favourable to surficial melt is to be investigated. Statistical approaches and pattern recognition techniques are argued to provide a context for projecting future ice sheet change. The previous Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC AR4) commented on our lack of understanding of ice-sheet mass balance processes in polar regions and the potential for sea-level change. The IPPC suggested that the forthcoming AR5 efforts highlight regional cryosphere modeling efforts, such as is proposed here.

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