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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 14, issue 6
Clim. Past, 14, 923-946, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Clim. Past, 14, 923-946, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 28 Jun 2018

Research article | 28 Jun 2018

Water stable isotope spatio-temporal variability in Antarctica in 1960–2013: observations and simulations from the ECHAM5-wiso atmospheric general circulation model

Sentia Goursaud1,2, Valérie Masson-Delmotte1, Vincent Favier1, Anaïs Orsi2, and Martin Werner3 Sentia Goursaud et al.
  • 1Univ. Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, IGE, F-38000 Grenoble, France
  • 2LSCE (Institut Pierre Simon Laplace, UMR CEA-CNRS-UVSQ 8212, Université Paris Saclay), Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 3Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany

Abstract. Polar ice core water isotope records are commonly used to infer past changes in Antarctic temperature, motivating an improved understanding and quantification of the temporal relationship between δ18O and temperature. This can be achieved using simulations performed by atmospheric general circulation models equipped with water stable isotopes. Here, we evaluate the skills of the high-resolution water-isotope-enabled atmospheric general circulation model ECHAM5-wiso (the European Centre Hamburg Model) nudged to European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) reanalysis using simulations covering the period 1960–2013 over the Antarctic continent.

We compare model outputs with field data, first with a focus on regional climate variables and second on water stable isotopes, using our updated dataset of water stable isotope measurements from precipitation, snow, and firn–ice core samples. ECHAM5-wiso simulates a large increase in temperature from 1978 to 1979, possibly caused by a discontinuity in the European Reanalyses (ERA) linked to the assimilation of remote sensing data starting in 1979.

Although some model–data mismatches are observed, the (precipitation minus evaporation) outputs are found to be realistic products for surface mass balance. A warm model bias over central East Antarctica and a cold model bias over coastal regions explain first-order δ18O model biases by too-strong isotopic depletion on coastal areas and underestimated depletion inland. At the second order, despite these biases, ECHAM5-wiso correctly captures the observed spatial patterns of deuterium excess. The results of model–data comparisons for the inter-annual δ18O standard deviation differ when using precipitation or ice core data. Further studies should explore the importance of deposition and post-deposition processes affecting ice core signals and not resolved in the model.

These results build trust in the use of ECHAM5-wiso outputs to investigate the spatial, seasonal, and inter-annual δ18O–temperature relationships. We thus make the first Antarctica-wide synthesis of prior results. First, we show that local spatial or seasonal slopes are not a correct surrogate for inter-annual temporal slopes, leading to the conclusion that the same isotope–temperature slope cannot be applied for the climatic interpretation of Antarctic ice core for all timescales. Finally, we explore the phasing between the seasonal cycles of deuterium excess and δ18O as a source of information on changes in moisture sources affecting the δ18O–temperature relationship. The few available records and ECHAM5-wiso show different phase relationships in coastal, intermediate, and central regions.

This work evaluates the use of the ECHAM5-wiso model as a tool for the investigation of water stable isotopes in Antarctic precipitation and calls for extended studies to improve our understanding of such proxies.

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Short summary
Atmospheric general circulation models equipped with water stable isotopes are key tools to explore the links between climate variables and precipitation isotopic composition and thus to quantify past temperature changes using ice core records. Here, we evaluate the skills of ECHAM5-wiso to simulate the spatio-temporal characteristics of Antarctic climate and precipitation isotopic composition at the regional scale, thanks to a database of precipitation and ice core records.
Atmospheric general circulation models equipped with water stable isotopes are key tools to...