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Greenland high-elevation mass balance: inference and implication of reference period (1961–90) imbalance

  • William Colgan (a1), Jason E. Box (a1), Morten L. Andersen (a1), Xavier Fettweis (a2), Beáta Csathó (a3), Robert S. Fausto (a1), Dirk Van As (a1) and John Wahr (a4)...
Abstract

We revisit the input–output mass budget of the high-elevation region of the Greenland ice sheet evaluated by the Program for Arctic Regional Climate Assessment (PARCA). Our revised reference period (1961–90) mass balance of 54±48 Gt a–1 is substantially greater than the 0±21 Gt a–1 assessed by PARCA, but consistent with a recent, fully independent, input–output estimate of high-elevation mass balance (41±61 Gt a–1). Together these estimates infer a reference period high-elevation specific mass balance of 4.8±5.4 cm w.e. a–1. The probability density function (PDF) associated with this combined input–output estimate infers an 81% likelihood of high-elevation specific mass balance being positive (>0 cm w.e. a–1) during the reference period, and a 70% likelihood that specific balance was >2 cm w.e. a–1. Given that reference period accumulation is characteristic of centurial and millennial means, and that in situ mass-balance observations exhibit a dependence on surface slope rather than surface mass balance, we suggest that millennial-scale ice dynamics are the primary driver of subtle reference period high-elevation mass gain. Failure to acknowledge subtle reference period dynamic mass gain can result in underestimating recent dynamic mass loss by ~17%, and recent total Greenland mass loss by ~7%.

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Corresponding author
Correspondence: William Colgan <wic@geus.dk>
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