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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-2019-129
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-129
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 25 Jun 2019

Submitted as: research article | 25 Jun 2019

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

West Greenland ice sheet retreat history reveals elevated precipitation during the Holocene thermal maximum

Jacob Downs1, Jesse Johnson2, Jason Briner3, Nicolás Young4, Alia Lesnek3, and Josh Cuzzone5 Jacob Downs et al.
  • 1Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Montana, Missoula MT, USA
  • 2Department of Computer Science, University of Montana, Missoula MT, USA
  • 3Department of Geology, University at Buffalo, Buffalo NY, USA
  • 4Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades NY, USA
  • 5Department of Earth System Science, University of California Irvine, Irvine CA, USA

Abstract. We investigate changing precipitation patterns in the Kangerlussuaq region of west central Greenland during the Holocene thermal maximum, using a new chronology of ice sheet terminus position through the Holocene and a novel inverse modeling approach based on the unscented transform (UT). The UT is applied to estimate changes in annual precipitation in order to reduce the misfit between modeled and observed terminus positions. We demonstrate the effectiveness of the UT for time-dependent data assimilation, highlighting its low computational cost and trivial parallel implementation. Our results indicate that Holocene warming coincided with elevated precipitation, without which modeled retreat in the Kangerlussuaq region is more rapid than suggested by observations. Less conclusive is if high temperatures during the HTM were specifically associated with a transient increase in precipitation, as the results depend on the assumed temperature history. The importance of precipitation in controlling ice sheet extent during the Holocene underscores the importance of Arctic sea ice loss and changing precipitation patterns on the future stability of the GrIS.

Jacob Downs et al.
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Short summary
We investigate changes in precipitation patterns during the Holocene thermal maximum (HTM), a period believed to have warmer than modern temperatures. Modeling work incorporating a new reconstruction of Holocene ice sheet retreat in west central Greenland suggests that HTM warming may have been associated with elevated precipitation. Similar changes in precipitation patterns may help stabilize the Greenland ice sheet to future warming by increasing ice accumulation.
We investigate changes in precipitation patterns during the Holocene thermal maximum (HTM), a...
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