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Initialising model glaciers such that they match well with their real counterparts and are thus able to make more accurate predictions is an ongoing challenge in glacier modelling. We set out a data-assimilation approach using an ensemble Kalman filter in a 2D flowline example that provides one possible solution to this problem. We show that our approach is valid across a range of parameters and scenarios, including deliberately data-deficient or inaccurate ones, and leads to robust retrieval of the glacier bed. We also provide some suggestions for how best to use data assimilation within a mountain-glacier context.
Antarctica's ice shelves modulate the grounded ice flow, and weakening of ice shelves due to climate forcing will decrease their ‘buttressing’ effect, causing a response in the grounded ice. While the processes governing ice-shelf weakening are complex, uncertainties in the response of the grounded ice sheet are also difficult to assess. The Antarctic BUttressing Model Intercomparison Project (ABUMIP) compares ice-sheet model responses to decrease in buttressing by investigating the ‘end-member’ scenario of total and sustained loss of ice shelves. Although unrealistic, this scenario enables gauging the sensitivity of an ensemble of 15 ice-sheet models to a total loss of buttressing, hence exhibiting the full potential of marine ice-sheet instability. All models predict that this scenario leads to multi-metre (1–12 m) sea-level rise over 500 years from present day. West Antarctic ice sheet collapse alone leads to a 1.91–5.08 m sea-level rise due to the marine ice-sheet instability. Mass loss rates are a strong function of the sliding/friction law, with plastic laws cause a further destabilization of the Aurora and Wilkes Subglacial Basins, East Antarctica. Improvements to marine ice-sheet models have greatly reduced variability between modelled ice-sheet responses to extreme ice-shelf loss, e.g. compared to the SeaRISE assessments.
We simulate the ice dynamics of the San Rafael Glacier (SRG) in the Northern Patagonia Icefield (46.7°S, 73.5°W), using glacier geometry obtained by airborne gravity measurements. The full-Stokes ice flow model (Elmer/Ice) is initialized using an inverse method to infer the basal friction coefficient from a satellite-derived surface velocity mosaic. The high surface velocities (7.6 km a−1) near the glacier front are explained by low basal shear stresses (<25 kPa). The modelling results suggest that 98% of the surface velocities are due to basal sliding in the fast-flowing glacier tongue (>1 km a−1). We force the model using different surface mass-balance scenarios taken or adapted from previous studies and geodetic elevation changes between 2000 and 2012. Our results suggest that previous estimates of average surface mass balance over the entire glacier (Ḃ) were likely too high, mainly due to an overestimation in the accumulation area. We propose that most of SRG imbalance is due to the large ice discharge (−0.83 ± 0.08 Gt a−1) and a slightly positive Ḃ (0.08 ± 0.06 Gt a−1). The committed mass-loss estimate over the next century is −0.34 ± 0.03 Gt a−1. This study demonstrates that surface mass-balance estimates and glacier wastage projections can be improved using a physically based ice flow model.
Basal slip accounts for a large part of the flow of ice streams draining ice from Antarctica and Greenland into the ocean. Therefore, an appropriate representation of basal slip in ice flow models is a prerequisite for accurate sea level rise projections. Various friction laws have been proposed to describe basal slip in models. Here, we compare the influence on grounding line (GL) dynamics of four friction laws: the traditional Weertman law and three effective pressure-dependent laws, namely the Schoof, Tsai and Budd laws. It turns out that, even when they are tuned to a common initial reference state, the Weertman, Budd and Schoof laws lead to thoroughly different steady-state positions, although the Schoof and Tsai laws lead to much the same result. In particular, under certain circumstances, it is possible to obtain a steady GL located on a reverse slope area using the Weertman law. Furthermore, the predicted transient evolution of the GL as well as the projected contributions to sea level rise over a 100-year time horizon vary significantly depending on the friction law. We conclude on the importance of choosing an appropriate law for reliable sea level rise projections and emphasise the need for a coupling between ice flow models and physically based subglacial hydrological models.
Bolivian glaciers are an essential source of fresh water for the Altiplano, and any changes they may undergo in the near future due to ongoing climate change are of particular concern. Glaciar Zongo, Bolivia, located near the administrative capital La Paz, has been extensively monitored by the GLACIOCLIM observatory in the last two decades. Here we model the glacier dynamics using the 3-D full-Stokes model Elmer/Ice. The model was calibrated and validated over a recent period (1997–2010) using four independent datasets: available observations of surface velocities and surface mass balance were used for calibration, and changes in surface elevation and retreat of the glacier front were used for validation. Over the validation period, model outputs are in good agreement with observations (differences less than a small percentage). The future surface mass balance is assumed to depend on the equilibrium-line altitude (ELA) and temperature changes through the sensitivity of ELA to temperature. The model was then forced for the 21st century using temperature changes projected by nine Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) models. Here we give results for three different representative concentration pathways (RCPs). The intermediate scenario RCP6.0 led to 69 ± 7% volume loss by 2100, while the two extreme scenarios, RCP2.6 and RCP8.5, led to 40 ± 7% and 89 ± 4% loss of volume, respectively.
It is likely that climate change will have a significant impact on the mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet, contributing to future sea-level rise. Here we present the implementation of the full Stokes model Elmer/Ice for the Greenland ice sheet, which includes a mesh refinement technique in order to resolve fast-flowing ice streams and outlet glaciers. We discuss simulations 100 years into the future, forced by scenarios defined by the SeaRISE (Sea-level Response to Ice Sheet Evolution) community effort. For comparison, the same experiments are also run with the shallow-ice model SICOPOLIS (SImulation COde for POLythermal Ice Sheets). We find that Elmer/Ice is ~43% more sensitive (exhibits a larger loss of ice-sheet volume relative to the control run) than SICOPOLIS for the ice-dynamic scenario (doubled basal sliding), but ~61 % less sensitive for the direct global warming scenario (based on the A1 B moderate-emission scenario for greenhouse gases). The scenario with combined A1B global warming and doubled basal sliding forcing produces a Greenland contribution to sea-level rise of ~15cm for Elmer/Ice and ~12cm for SICOPOLIS over the next 100 years.
Polar ice is known to be one of the most anisotropic natural materials. For a given fabric the polycrystal viscous response is strongly dependent on the actual state of stress and strain rate. Within an ice sheet, grounded-ice parts and ice shelves have completely different stress regimes, so one should expect completely different impacts of ice anisotropy on the flow. The aim of this work is to quantify, through the concept of enhancement factors, the influence of ice anisotropy on the flow of grounded ice and ice shelves. For this purpose, a full-Stokes anisotropic marine ice-sheet flowline model is used to compare isotropic and anisotropic diagnostic velocity fields on a fixed geometry. From these full-Stokes results, we propose a definition of enhancement factors for grounded ice and ice shelves, coherent with the asymptotic models used for these regions. We then estimate realistic values for the enhancement factors induced by ice anisotropy for grounded ice and ice shelves.
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