The Cryosphere Discuss., 5, 3455-3477, 2011
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Present-day mass changes for the Greenland ice sheet and their interaction with bedrock adjustment
M. Olaizola1,*, R. S. W. van de Wal1, M. M. Helsen1, and B. de Boer1
1Institute for Marine and Atmospheric research Utrecht, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
*now at: Centre for Ice and Climate, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Abstract. Since the launch in 2002 of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites, several estimates of the mass balance of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) have been produced. To obtain ice mass changes estimates, data need to be corrected for the effect of deformation changes of the Earth's crust. This is usually done by independently modeling the Glaciological Isostatic Adjustment (GIA) trend and then by removing it from the data. Recently, Wu et al. (2010) proposed a new method to simultaneously estimate GIA and the present-day ice mass change, reporting an ice mass loss of around half of the previously published estimates and a general bedrock subsidence concentrated in the central parts of Greenland. This subsidence appears to be counterintuitive since the ice sheet is loosing mass at present. It was suggested by the authors that this could be a new evidence for additional net past ice accumulation.

In this study, a 3-D ice-sheet model with a surface mass balance forcing based on a mass balance gradient approach has been used to: (a) analyze the bedrock response to changes in the ice load in order to evaluate whether bedrock subsidence and ice thinning can exist simultaneously; (b) study the magnitude and the pattern of the bedrock movement; and (c) evaluate if present-day bedrock subsidence could be the result of a net past mass accumulation.

Under a sine forcing of the annual temperature, that mimics the temperature variations in the Holocene, mass changes yield a delay of the bedrock response of 200 years. Thinning of the ice as well as bedrock subsidence coexist during this period with an order of magnitude equal to the observations by Wu et al. (2010). Although, the resulting pattern of bedrock changes differs considerable: instead of the general bedrock subsidence reported before, we found areas of bedrock uplift as well as areas of bedrock subsidence. A simulation since the last glacial maximum (with the temperature represented as a linear increase from −10 K to present-day) yields a time lag of 1990 years for the bedrock response relative to the temperature forcing and an average uplift of 0.3 mm yr−1 for present-day. The spatial pattern of bedrock-change shows subsidence in the south and northwest as well as uplift in the center and northeast. We obtained these results assuming that the solid earth is a flat elastic lithosphere resting over a viscous relaxed asthenosphere (ELRA model). Using a more sophisticated Self Gravitational Viscoelastic (SGVE) model, we obtain qualitatively similar results: a 2200 years lag and an average uplift for present-day of 0.2 mm yr−1. The spatial pattern of bedrock movement is similar as well. Finally, results are shown for a temperature reconstruction based on ice core data confirming the deglaciation experiment.

According to this study, a bedrock subsidence with a maximum in the central parts of Greenland cannot be that recent explained by a net past ice accumulation. This undermines results suggesting that recent loss is only half of the regular ice mass loss changes.

Citation: Olaizola, M., van de Wal, R. S. W., Helsen, M. M., and de Boer, B.: Present-day mass changes for the Greenland ice sheet and their interaction with bedrock adjustment, The Cryosphere Discuss., 5, 3455-3477, doi:10.5194/tcd-5-3455-2011, 2011.
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