This study uses output of a high-resolution (5.5 km) regional atmospheric climate model to describe the present-day (1979–2012) climate of Patagonia, with a particular focus on the surface mass balance (SMB) of the Patagonian ice fields. Through a comparison with available in situ observations, it is shown that the model is able to simulate the sharp climate gradients in western Patagonia. The southern Andes are an efficient barrier for the prevalent atmospheric flow, generating strong orographic uplift and precipitation throughout the entire year. The model suggests extreme orographic precipitation west of the Andes divide, with annual precipitation rates of >5 to 34 m w.e. (water equivalent), and a clear rain shadow east of the divide. These modeled precipitation rates are supported qualitatively by available precipitation stations and SMB estimates on the ice fields derived from firn cores. For the period 1979–2012, a slight atmospheric cooling at upper ice field elevations is found, leading to a small but insignificant increase in the ice field SMB.
JTM Lenaerts, MR van den Broeke, JM van Wessem, WJ van den Berg, E van Meijgaard, LH van Ulft, M Marius Schaefer. Extreme Precipitation and Climate Gradients in Patagonia Revealed by High-Resolution Regional Atmospheric Climate Modeling
Status: published, Journal: J. Climate, Volume: 27, Year: 2014, First page: 4607, Last page: 4621, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-13-00579.1