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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-2019-222
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-222
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 26 Sep 2019

Submitted as: research article | 26 Sep 2019

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

21st century ocean forcing of the Greenland Ice Sheet for modeling of sea level contribution

Donald A. Slater1, Denis Felikson2, Fiamma Straneo1, Heiko Goelzer3,4, Christopher M. Little5, Mathieu Morlighem6, Xavier Fettweis7, and Sophie Nowicki2 Donald A. Slater et al.
  • 1Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA
  • 2Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA
  • 3Utrecht University, Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 4Laboratoire de Glaciologie, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium
  • 5Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc., Lexington, MA, USA
  • 6Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine, USA
  • 7Laboratory of Climatology, Department of Geography, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium

Abstract. Changes in the ocean are expected to be an important determinant of the Greenland Ice Sheet's future sea level contribution. Yet representing these changes in continental-scale ice sheet models remains challenging due to the small scale of the key physics, and limitations in processing understanding. Here we present the ocean forcing strategy for Greenland Ice Sheet models taking part in the Ice Sheet Model Intercomparison Project for CMIP6 (ISMIP6), the primary community effort to provide 21st century sea level projections for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 6th Assessment Report. Beginning from global atmosphere-ocean general circulation models, we describe two complementary approaches to provide ocean boundary conditions for Greenland Ice Sheet models, termed the retreat and submarine melt implementations. The retreat implementation parameterizes glacier retreat as a function of projected submarine melting, is designed to be implementable by all ice sheet models, and results in retreat of around 1 and 15 km by 2100 in RCP2.6 and 8.5 scenarios respectively. The submarine melt implementation provides estimated submarine melting only, leaving the ice sheet model to solve for the resulting calving and glacier retreat, and suggests submarine melt rates will change little under RCP2.6 but will approximately triple by 2100 under RCP8.5. Both implementations have necessarily made use of simplifying assumptions and poorly-constrained parameterisations and as such, further research on submarine melting, calving and fjord-shelf exchange should remain a priority. Nevertheless, the presented framework will allow an ensemble of Greenland Ice Sheet models to be systematically and consistently forced by the ocean for the first time, and should therefore result in a significant improvement in projections of the Greenland ice sheet's contribution to future sea level change.

Donald A. Slater et al.
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Donald A. Slater et al.
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Latest update: 08 Dec 2019
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Short summary
Changes in the ocean around Greenland play an important role in determining how much the ice sheet will contribute to global sea level over the coming century. Yet capturing these links in models is very challenging. This paper presents a strategy enabling an ensemble of ice sheet models to feel the effect of the ocean for the first time, and should therefore result in a significant improvement in projections of the Greenland Ice Sheet's contribution to future sea level change.
Changes in the ocean around Greenland play an important role in determining how much the ice...
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