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https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-79
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-79
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 07 Apr 2020

Submitted as: research article | 07 Apr 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Sensitivity of ice flow to uncertainty in flow law parameters in an idealized one-dimensional geometry

Maria Zeitz1,2, Anders Levermann1,2,3, and Ricarda Winkelmann1,2 Maria Zeitz et al.
  • 1Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Member of the Leibniz Association, P.O. Box 60 12 03, 14412 Potsdam, Germany
  • 2University of Potsdam, Institute of Physics and Astronomy, Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 24-25, 14476 Potsdam, Germany
  • 3LDEO, Columbia University, New York, USA

Abstract. The flow of ice drives mass losses in both, the Antarctic and the Greenland Ice Sheet. The projections of possible future sea-level rise rely on numerical ice-sheet models, which solve the physics of ice flow and melt. While a number of important uncertainties have been addressed by the ice-sheet modeling community, the flow law, which is at the center of most process-based ice-sheet models, has so far been assumed certain. Unfortunately, recent studies show that the parameters in the flow law might be uncertain and different from the widely accepted standard values. Here, we use an idealized flowline setup to investigate how uncertainties in the flow law translate into uncertainties in flow-driven mass loss given a step-wise increase of surface temperatures. We find that the measured range of flow parameters can double the flow-driven mass loss within the first centuries of warming, compared to a setting with standard parameters. The spread of ice loss due to an uncertainty in flow parameters is of the same order as the increase in mass loss due to increasing surface temperatures. While this study focuses on an idealized setting in order to disentangle the effect of the flow law from other effects, it is likely that this uncertainty carries over to realistic three-dimensional simulations of Greenland and Antarctica.

Maria Zeitz et al.

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Maria Zeitz et al.

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Latest update: 03 Jun 2020
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Short summary
The flow of ice drives mass losses in the large ice sheets. Sea-level rise projections rely on ice-sheet models, solving the physics of ice flow and melt. Unfortunately, recent studies show that the parameters in the physics of flow are uncertain. Here we show, in an idealized setup, that these uncertainties can double flow-driven mass losses within the possible range of parameters. It is likely that this uncertainty carries over to realistic sea-level rise projections.
The flow of ice drives mass losses in the large ice sheets. Sea-level rise projections rely on...
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