Modelling the dynamic response of Jakobshavn Isbræ, West Greenland, to calving rate perturbations

Thomas.Kleiner [ at ]


Jakobshavn Isbræ, one of Greenland’s major outlet glaciers, displayed rapid changes since the mid-1990s. Its floating ice tongue broke up around 1997, followed by a rapid calving front retreat over tens of kilometres, possibly linked to a prior warming of the ocean waters adjacent to the fjord. Parallel to this major retreat, a quasi-simultaneous process of acceleration and thinning of the glacier has been observed, currently making it a major contributor to eustatic sea-level rise. However, the causal interplay between the various factors involved has not yet been fully understood. Numerical studies of Jakobshavn Isbræ so far are either 2-D plan view ice flow models with a fixed calving front or 2-D flowline models, which have to parameterize lateral stresses. Hence the interaction between changes in calving front position and ice dynamics could not be studied consistently. To overcome this limitation, we implemented an implicit boundary tracking method in the Ice Sheet System Model (ISSM). This tool allows us to freely evolve the calving front by prescribing a calving rate, the ice front velocity being therefore the sum of ice velocity and calving rate. A suite of sensitivity experiments perturbing an initial steady-state calving rate has been performed to study its impact on the dynamics of the glacier. Our numerical results suggest a high sensitivity of the glacier dynamics to the applied calving rate. Changes in calving rate quickly affect upstream areas of the ice stream through a combination of changes in calving front position, ice velocity, thickness, grounding and ungrounding, and surface gradient change. Consequently, acceleration triggered at the calving front quickly affects the entire drainage basin. Moreover, the model results suggest that the ice stream does not recover from a short duration (about a year) calving rate perturbation over timescales on the order of a century. We present selected results of the sensitivity experiments to support the discussion clarifying the causes of the current changes occurring at this dynamic ice stream.

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International Symposium on Contemporary Ice-Sheet Dynamics, 16 Aug 2015 - 22 Aug 2015, Cambridge, UK.
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Bondzio, J. , Seroussi, H. , Morlighem, M. , Kleiner, T. , Rückamp, M. , Humbert, A. and Larour, E. (2015): Modelling the dynamic response of Jakobshavn Isbræ, West Greenland, to calving rate perturbations , International Symposium on Contemporary Ice-Sheet Dynamics, Cambridge, UK, 16 August 2015 - 22 August 2015 .

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