Antarctic sub-shelf melt rates via PICO

Ronja Reese, Torsten Albrecht, Matthias Mengel, Xylar Asay-Davis, Ricarda Winkelmann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Ocean-induced melting below ice shelves is one of the dominant drivers for mass loss from the Antarctic Ice Sheet at present. An appropriate representation of sub-shelf melt rates is therefore essential for model simulations of marine-based ice sheet evolution. Continental-scale ice sheet models often rely on simple melt-parameterizations, in particular for long-term simulations, when fully coupled ice–ocean interaction becomes computationally too expensive. Such parameterizations can account for the influence of the local depth of the ice-shelf draft or its slope on melting. However, they do not capture the effect of ocean circulation underneath the ice shelf. Here we present the Potsdam Ice-shelf Cavity mOdel (PICO), which simulates the vertical overturning circulation in ice-shelf cavities and thus enables the computation of sub-shelf melt rates consistent with this circulation. PICO is based on an ocean box model that coarsely resolves ice shelf cavities and uses a boundary layer melt formulation. We implement it as a module of the Parallel Ice Sheet Model (PISM) and evaluate its performance under present-day conditions of the Southern Ocean. We identify a set of parameters that yield two-dimensional melt rate fields that qualitatively reproduce the typical pattern of comparably high melting near the grounding line and lower melting or refreezing towards the calving front. PICO captures the wide range of melt rates observed for Antarctic ice shelves, with an average of about 0.1 m a−1 for cold sub-shelf cavities, for example, underneath Ross or Ronne ice shelves, to 16 m a−1 for warm cavities such as in the Amundsen Sea region. This makes PICO a computationally feasible and more physical alternative to melt parameterizations purely based on ice draft geometry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1969-1985
Number of pages17
JournalThe Cryosphere
Volume12
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes

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