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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2018-109
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2018-109
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 18 Jul 2018

Submitted as: research article | 18 Jul 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It has been under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC). The revised manuscript was not accepted.

Snowfall versus sub-shelf melt: response of an idealized 3D ice-sheet-shelf system to mass redistribution

Johannes Feldmann1, Ronja Reese1,2, Ricarda Winkelmann1,2, and Anders Levermann1,2,3 Johannes Feldmann et al.
  • 1Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Potsdam, Germany
  • 2Institute of Physics, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
  • 3LDEO, Columbia University, New York, USA

Abstract. Surface accumulation and sub-ice-shelf melting are key drivers for the flow dynamics of the Antarctic Ice Sheet and are most likely to change under future warming which leads to 1) higher snowfall and 2) stronger melting below ice shelves. Here we carry out conceptual simulations in which an equilibrium ice-sheet-shelf system is perturbed such that the increased sub-shelf melting is compensated by enhanced snowfall. Although the net surface mass balance of the whole system remains unchanged, the redistribution of mass leads to a dynamic response of the ice sheet due to changes in ice thickness, surface slope, ice-shelf backstress and ice discharge. In particular, we show that such forcing can lead to the counter-intuitive situation of a retreating ice sheet which gains mass, thus having a negative sea-level contribution but smaller ice-sheet extent. The ice-sheet evolution and the corresponding steady states are investigated varying relevant parameters that affect ice properties and bed geometry as well as for different magnitudes of mass redistribution. Furthermore, the ice-sheet response is analyzed with respect to the pattern of applied melting, i.e., the area over which melting is distributed and the location where it is applied. We find throughout the ensemble of simulations that after two decades, melting at the lateral ice-shelf margins induces more ice-shelf thinning, resulting in stronger grounding line retreat and transient ice discharge compared to melting adjacent to the central grounding-line section. Analyzing changes in ice-shelf backstress with respect to changes in the ice-shelf length and mean thickness, respectively, we show that a thickness change has up to four times more influence on the backstress of the ice shelf than a length change.

Johannes Feldmann et al.
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Johannes Feldmann et al.
Johannes Feldmann et al.
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