Temporal and spatial characteristics of the Antarctic specific surface mass balance (SSMB) are presented, including its components solid precipitation, sublimation/deposition and melt. For this purpose, we use the output of a regional atmospheric climate model (RACMO2/ANT, horizontal resolution of ~55 km) for the period 1958–2002. RACMO2/ANT uses European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) 40 year re-analysis (ERA-40) fields as forcing at the lateral boundaries. RACMO2/ANT underestimates SSMB in the high interior of East and West Antarctica and overestimates SSMB on the steep coastal slopes. Otherwise, the modeled spatial pattern of SSMB is in good qualitative agreement with recent compilations of in situ observations. Large-scale patterns, like the precipitation shadow effect of the Antarctic Peninsula, are well reproduced, and mesoscale SSMB patterns, such as the strong precipitation gradients on Law Dome, are well represented in the model. The integrated SSMB over the grounded ice sheet is 153mmw.e. a–1 for the period 1958–2002, which agrees within 5% with the latest measurement compilations. Sublimation and melt remove 7% and <1% respectively of the solid precipitation. We found significant seasonality of solid precipitation, with a maximum in autumn and a minimum in summer. No meaningful trend was identified for the SSMB, because the time series of solid precipitation and SSMB are affected by an inhomogeneity in 1980 within the ERA-40 fields that drive RACMO2/ANT. Sublimation, melt and liquid precipitation increase in time, which is related to a modeled increase in 2m temperature.