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Modeling of firn compaction for estimating ice-sheet mass change from observed ice-sheet elevation change

  • Jun Li (a1) and H. Jay Zwally (a2)

Abstract

Changes in ice-sheet surface elevation are caused by a combination of ice-dynamic imbalance, ablation, temporal variations in accumulation rate, firn compaction and underlying bedrock motion. Thus, deriving the rate of ice-sheet mass change from measured surface elevation change requires information on the rate of firn compaction and bedrock motion, which do not involve changes in mass, and requires an appropriate firn density to associate with elevation changes induced by recent accumulation rate variability. We use a 25 year record of surface temperature and a parameterization for accumulation change as a function of temperature to drive a firn compaction model. We apply this formulation to ICESat measurements of surface elevation change at three locations on the Greenland ice sheet in order to separate the accumulation-driven changes from the ice-dynamic/ablation-driven changes, and thus to derive the corresponding mass change. Our calculated densities for the accumulation-driven changes range from 410 to 610 kgm–3, which along with 900 kgm–3 for the dynamic/ablation-driven changes gives average densities ranging from 680 to 790 kgm–3. We show that using an average (or ‘effective’) density to convert elevation change to mass change is not valid where the accumulation and the dynamic elevation changes are of opposite sign.

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References

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