Journal article

Katabatic winds diminish precipitation contribution to the Antarctic ice mass balance

Snowfall in Antarctica is a key term of the ice sheet mass budget that influences the sea level at global scale. Over the continental margins, persistent katabatic winds blow all year long and supply the lower troposphere with unsaturated air. We show that this dry air leads to significant low-level sublimation of snowfall. We found using unprecedented data collected over 1 year on the coast of Adelie Land and simulations from different atmospheric models that low-level sublimation accounts for a 17% reduction of total snowfall over the continent and up to 35% on the margins of East Antarctica, significantly affecting satellite-based estimations close to the ground. Our findings suggest that, as climate warming progresses, this process will be enhanced and will limit expected precipitation increases at the ground level.


Related material