Large-scale and regional climatic influences on surface temperature and precipitation in the South Shetland Islands, northern Antarctic Peninsula

Resumen: Between March 15-19, 2022, East Antarctica experienced an exceptional heatwave with widespread 30-40° C temperature anomalies across the ice sheet. In Part I, we assessed the meteorological drivers that generated an intense atmospheric river (AR) which caused these record-shattering temperature anomalies. Here in Part II, we continue our large, collaborative study by analyzing the widespread and diverse impacts driven by the AR landfall.

These impacts included widespread rain and surface melt which was recorded along coastal areas, but this was outweighed by widespread, high snowfall accumulations resulting in a largely positive surface mass balance contribution to the East Antarctic region. An analysis of the surface energy budget indicated that widespread downward longwave radiation anomalies caused by large cloud-liquid water contents along with some scattered solar radiation produced intense surface warming. Isotope measurements of the moisture were highly elevated, likely imprinting a strong signal for past climate reconstructions. The AR event attenuated cosmic ray measurements at Concordia, something previously never observed. Finally, an extratropical cyclone west of the AR landfall likely triggered the final collapse of the critically unstable Conger Ice Shelf while further reducing an already record low sea-ice extent.

Using data from SCAR observations, ERA5 reanalysis, and regional climate model simulations (RACMO), we examined the influence of large- and regional-scale climate forcing on temperature and precipitation variations in the South Shetland Islands (SSI). Specifically, we focused on understanding how regional climate indices influence the temporal variability of temperature and precipitation on the SSI. Our findings indicate that both large- and regional-scale climate indices significantly impact the interannual and seasonal temperature variability in the SSI. For instance, the Amundsen Sea Low, characterised by low-pressure systems over the Amundsen Sea, and sea ice extent in the northwestern part of the Weddell Sea, exert a strong influence on temperature variability (r from -0.64 to -0.87; p < 0.05). In contrast, precipitation variability in this region is primarily controlled by regional climatic indices. Particularly, anomalies in atmospheric and surface pressure over the Drake Passage region strongly regulate the interannual variability of precipitation in the SSI (r from -0.46 to -0.70; p < 0.05). Large-scale climatic indices demonstrate low but statistically significant correlations, including the Southern Annular Mode and deep convection in the central tropical Pacific. Given the importance of temperature and precipitation in the glacier changes, we recommend assessing the impact of the Drake region on SSI glaciers.


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