THE Antarctic Atmospheric Energy Budget: Observations and Model Simulations

Monday, 15 December 2014
Michael J Previdi, Columbia University, Palisades, NY, United States, Karen L Smith, Lamont -Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, NY, United States and Lorenzo M Polvani, Columbia University, New York, NY, United States
We present a new, observationally-based estimate of the atmospheric energy budget for the Antarctic polar cap (the region poleward of 70°S). This energy budget is constructed using state-of-the-art reanalysis products from ECMWF [the ECMWF Interim Re-Analysis (ERA-Interim)] and Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) top-of-atmosphere (TOA) radiative fluxes. We find that the climatological mean Antarctic energy budget is characterized by an approximate balance between the TOA net outgoing radiation and the horizontal convergence of atmospheric energy transport, with the net surface energy flux and atmospheric energy storage generally being small in comparison. We compare these observationally-based results with coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation model simulations that have been made available as part of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, phase 5 (CMIP5). While CMIP5 models generally perform well in simulating the observed climatological mean energy budget, some notable model biases are apparent. These biases are most pronounced during the austral summer and fall seasons, with the largest biases (approaching 30 W m-2 for some models) occurring for the TOA net incoming shortwave radiation during summer. Finally, we examine the causes of model biases (e.g., deficiencies in the simulated cloud cover and sea ice), as well as their relationship to the simulated twenty-first century trends in the energy budget. We find a statistically significant inverse correlation across the CMIP5 models between the present-day biases in atmospheric energy transport into the polar cap, and the simulated future changes in energy transport over the twenty-first century. Possible reasons for this relationship are discussed.