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Mass-balance modelling of the Greenland ice sheet: a comparison of an energy-balance and a degree-day model

  • R. S. W. van de Wal (a1)

Abstract

A degree-day model and an energy-balance model for the Greenland ice sheet are compared. The two models are compared at a grid with 20 km spacing. Input for both models is elevation, latitude and accumulation. The models calculate the annual ablation over the entire ice sheet. Although on the whole the two models yield similar results, depending on the tuning of the models, regional discrepancies of up to 45% occur, especially for northern Greenland. The performance of the two types of model is evaluated by comparing the model results with the sparsely available (long-term) mass-balance measurements. Results show that the energy-balance model tends to predict a more accurate mass-balance gradient with elevation than does the degree-day model.

Since so little is known about the present-day climate of the ice sheet, it is more useful to consider the sensitivity of the ablation to various climate elements than to consider the actual present-day ablation. Results show that for a 1 K temperature perturbation, sea-level rise is 0.31 mm year−1 for the energy-balance model and 0.34 mm year−1 for the degree-day model. After tuning the degree-day model to a value of the ablation, equivalent to the ablation calculated by the energy-balance model, sensitivity of the degree-day model increases to 0.37 mm sea-level change per year. This means that the sensitivity of the degree-day model for a 1 K temperature perturbation is about 20% higher than the sensitivity of the energy-balance model. Another set of experiments shows that the sensitivity of the ablation is dependent on the magnitude of the temperature perturbation for the two models. Both models show an increasing sensitivity per degree for larger perturbations. The increase in the sensitivity is larger for the degree-day model than for the energy-balance model. The differences in the sensitivity are mainly concentrated in the southern parts of the ice sheet.

Experiments for the Bellagio temperature scenario. 0.3°C increase in temperature per decade, leads to sea-level rise of 4.4 cm over a period of 100 years for the energy-balance model. The degree-day model predicts for the same forcing a 5.8 cm rise which is about 32% higher than the result of the energy-balance model.

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References

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Mass-balance modelling of the Greenland ice sheet: a comparison of an energy-balance and a degree-day model

  • R. S. W. van de Wal (a1)

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