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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2018-104
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 09 Aug 2018

Research article | 09 Aug 2018

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

Retreat of Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica, over the next 100 years using various ice flow models, ice shelf melt scenarios and basal friction laws

Hongju Yu1, Eric Rignot1,2, Helene Seroussi2, and Mathieu Morlighem1 Hongju Yu et al.
  • 1Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine, California, USA
  • 2Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA

Abstract. Thwaites Glacier (TG), West Antarctica, experiences rapid, potentially irreversible grounding line retreat and mass loss in response to enhanced ice shelf melting. Several numerical models of TG have been developed recently, showing a large spread in the evolution of the glacier in the coming decades to a century. It is, however, not clear how different parameterizations of basal friction and ice shelf melt or different approximations in ice stress balance affect projections.Here, we simulate the evolution of TG using different ice shelf melt, basal friction laws and ice sheet models of varying levels of complexity to quantify the effect of these model configurations on the results. We find that the grounding line retreat and its sensitivity to ocean forcing is enhanced when a full-Stokes model is used, ice shelf melt is applied on partially floating elements, and a Budd friction is used. Initial conditions also impact the model results. Yet, all simulations suggest a rapid, sustained retreat along the same preferred pathway. The highest retreat rate occurs on the eastern side of the glacier and the lowest rate on a subglacial ridge on the western side. All the simulations indicate that TG will undergo an accelerated retreat once it retreats past the western ridge. Combining the results, we find the uncertainty is small in the first 30 years, with a cumulative contribution to sea level rise of 5mm, similar to the current rate. After 30 years, the mass loss depends on the model configurations, with a 300% difference over the next 100 years, ranging from 14 to 42mm.

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Short summary
Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica, is experiencing rapid grounding line retreat and mass loss in the past decades. In this study, we simulate the evolution of Thwaites Glacier over the next century using different model configurations. Overall, we estimate a 5 mm contribution to global sea level rise from Thwaites Glacier in the next 30 years. However, a 300 % uncertainty is found over the next 100 years, ranging from 14 to 42 mm, depending on the model setup.
Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica, is experiencing rapid grounding line retreat and mass loss in...
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