Regional grid refinement in an Earth system model: Impacts on the simulated Greenland surface mass balance

Leonardus Van Kampenhout, Alan M. Rhoades, Adam R. Herrington, Colin M. Zarzycki, Jan T.M. Lenaerts, William J. Sacks, Michiel R. Van Den Broeke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


In this study, the resolution dependence of the simulated Greenland ice sheet surface mass balance (GrIS SMB) in the variable-resolution Community Earth System Model (VR-CESM) is investigated. Coupled atmosphere-land simulations are performed on two regionally refined grids over Greenland at 0.5° (∼55km) and 0.25° (∼28km), maintaining a quasi-uniform resolution of 1° (∼111km) over the rest of the globe. On the refined grids, the SMB in the accumulation zone is significantly improved compared to airborne radar and in situ observations, with a general wetting (more snowfall) at the margins and a drying (less snowfall) in the interior GrIS. Total GrIS precipitation decreases with resolution, which is in line with best-available regional climate model results. In the ablation zone, CESM starts developing a positive SMB bias with increased resolution in some basins, notably in the east and the north. The mismatch in ablation is linked to changes in cloud cover in VR-CESM, and a reduced effectiveness of the elevation classes subgrid parametrization in CESM. Overall, our pilot study introduces VR-CESM as a new tool in the cryospheric sciences, which could be used to dynamically downscale SMB in scenario simulations and to force dynamical ice sheet models through the CESM coupling framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1547-1564
Number of pages18
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 3 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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