Modelling present-day basal melt rates for Antarctic ice shelves using a parametrization of buoyant meltwater plumes

Werner M.J. Lazeroms, Adrian Jenkins, G. Hilmar Gudmundsson, Roderik S.W. Van De Wal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Basal melting below ice shelves is a major factor in the decline of the Antarctic ice sheet, which can contribute significantly to possible future sea-level rise. Therefore, it is important to have an adequate description of the basal melt rates for use in ice-dynamical models. Most current ice models use rather simple parametrizations based on the local balance of heat between ice and ocean. In this work, however, we use a recently derived parametrization of the melt rates based on a buoyant meltwater plume travelling upward beneath an ice shelf. This plume parametrization combines a nonlinear ocean temperature sensitivity with an inherent geometry dependence, which is mainly described by the grounding-line depth zgl and the local slope α of the ice-shelf base. For the first time, this type of parametrization is evaluated on a two-dimensional grid covering the entire Antarctic continent. In order to apply the essentially one-dimensional parametrization to realistic ice-shelf geometries, we present an algorithm that determines effective values for zgl and α for any point beneath an ice shelf. Furthermore, since detailed knowledge of temperatures and flow patterns in the ice-shelf cavities is sparse or absent, we construct an effective ocean temperature field from observational data with the purpose of matching (area-averaged) melt rates from the model with observed present-day melt rates. The result is a realistic map of basal melt rates around Antarctica, not only in terms of average values, but also in terms of the spatial pattern, with high melt rates typically occurring near the grounding line. The plume parametrization and the effective temperature field are therefore promising tools for future simulations of the Antarctic ice sheet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-70
Number of pages22
JournalCryosphere
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2018

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