The Greenland Ice Sheet Response to Transient Climate Change

Edited: 2011-07-26
TitleThe Greenland Ice Sheet Response to Transient Climate Change
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsRen, D., R. Fu, L. M. Leslie, J. Chen, C. Wilson, and David J. Karoly
JournalJournal of Climate
Pagination3469 - 3483
Date Published07/2011
Keywordsclimate, grace, ice, sea_level
AbstractThis study applies a multiphase, multiple-rheology, scalable, and extensible geofluid model to the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS). The model is driven by monthly atmospheric forcing from global climate model simulations. Novel features of the model, referred to as the scalable and extensible geofluid modeling system (SEGMENT-Ice), include using the full Navier–Stokes equations to account for nonlocal dynamic balance and its influence on ice flow, and a granular sliding layer between the bottom ice layer and the lithosphere layer to provide a mechanism for possible large-scale surges in a warmer future climate (granular basal layer is for certain specific regions, though). Monthly climate of SEGMENT-Ice allows an investigation of detailed features such as seasonal melt area extent (SME) over Greenland. The model reproduced reasonably well the annual maximum SME and total ice mass lost rate when compared observations from the Special Sensing Microwave Imager (SSM/I) and Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) over the past few decades. The SEGMENT-Ice simulations are driven by projections from two relatively high-resolution climate models, the NCAR Community Climate System Model, version 3 (CCSM3) and the Model for Interdisciplinary Research on Climate 3.2, high-resolution version [MIROC3.2(hires)], under a realistic twenty-first-century greenhouse gas emission scenario. They suggest that the surface flow would be enhanced over the entire GrIS owing to a reduction of ice viscosity as the temperature increases, despite the small change in the ice surface topography over the interior of Greenland. With increased surface flow speed, strain heating induces more rapid heating in the ice at levels deeper than due to diffusion alone. Basal sliding, especially for granular sediments, provides an efficient mechanism for fast-glacier acceleration and enhanced mass loss. This mechanism, absent from other models, provides a rapid dynamic response to climate change. Net mass loss estimates from the new model should reach ~220 km3 yr−1 by 2100, significantly higher than estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report 4 (AR4) of ~50–100 km3 yr−1. By 2100, the perennial frozen surface area decreases up to ~60%, to ~7 × 105 km2, indicating a massive expansion of the ablation zone. Ice mass change patterns, particularly along the periphery, are very similar between the two climate models.
Short TitleJ. Climate