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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-2019-212
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-212
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 30 Sep 2019

Submitted as: research article | 30 Sep 2019

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

Exceptionally High Geothermal Heat Flux Needed to Sustain the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream

Silje Smith-Johnsen1, Basile de Fleurian1, Nicole Schlegel2, Helene Seroussi2, and Kerim Nisanciolgu1,3 Silje Smith-Johnsen et al.
  • 1Department of Earth Science, University of Bergen, Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Norway
  • 2Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA
  • 3Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

Abstract. The Northeast Greenland Ice Stream (NEGIS) currently drains more than 10 % of the Greenland Ice Sheet area, and has recently undergone significant dynamic changes. It is therefore critical to accurately represent this feature when assessing the future contribution of Greenland to sea level rise. At present, NEGIS is reproduced in ice sheet models by inferring basal conditions using observed surface velocities. This approach helps estimate conditions at the base of the ice sheet, but cannot be used to estimate the evolution of basal drag in time, so it is not a good representation of the evolution of the ice sheet in future climate warming scenarios. NEGIS is suggested to be initiated by a geothermal heat flux anomaly close to the ice divide, left behind by the movement of Greenland over the Icelandic plume. However, the heat flux underneath the ice sheet is largely unknown, except for a few direct measurements from deep ice core drill sites. Using the Ice Sheet System Model (ISSM), with ice dynamics coupled to a subglacial hydrology model, we investigate the possibility of initiating NEGIS by inserting hotspots with various locations and intensities. We find that a minimum geothermal heat flux value of 970 mW/m2 located close to EastGRIP is required locally to reproduce the observed NEGIS velocities, consistent with previous estimates. By including high geothermal heat flux and the effect of water on sliding, we successfully reproduce the main characteristics of NEGIS in an ice sheet model without using data assimilation.

Silje Smith-Johnsen et al.
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Short summary
The Northeast Greenland Ice Stream (NEGIS) drains a large part of the Greenland and displays fast flow far inland. However, the flow pattern is not not well represented in ice sheet models. The fast flow has been explained by abnormally high geothermal heat flux. The heat melts the base of the ice sheet and the water produced may lubricate the bed and induce fast flow. By including high geothermal heat flux and a hydrology model, we successfully reproduce NEGIS is an ice sheet model.
The Northeast Greenland Ice Stream (NEGIS) drains a large part of the Greenland and displays...
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