Publication: The sensitivity of the Greenland Ice Sheet to glacial-interglacial oceanic forcing
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Copernicus Gesellschaft MBH
Observations suggest that during the last decades the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) has experienced a gradually accelerating mass loss, in part due to the observed speed-up of several of Greenland's marine-terminating glaciers. Recent studies directly attribute this to warming North Atlantic temperatures, which have triggered melting of the outlet glaciers of the GrIS, grounding-line retreat and enhanced ice discharge into the ocean, contributing to an acceleration of sea-level rise. Reconstructions suggest that the influence of the ocean has been of primary importance in the past as well. This was the case not only in interglacial periods, when warmer climates led to a rapid retreat of the GrIS to land above sea level, but also in glacial periods, when the GrIS expanded as far as the continental shelf break and was thus more directly exposed to oceanic changes. However, the GrIS response to palaeo-oceanic variations has yet to be investigated in detail from a mechanistic modelling perspective. In this work, the evolution of the GrIS over the past two glacial cycles is studied using a three-dimensional hybrid ice-sheet-shelf model. We assess the effect of the variation of oceanic temperatures on the GrIS evolution on glacial-interglacial timescales through changes in submarine melting. The results show a very high sensitivity of the GrIS to changing oceanic conditions. Oceanic forcing is found to be a primary driver of GrIS expansion in glacial times and of retreat in interglacial periods. If switched off, palaeo-atmospheric variations alone are not able to yield a reliable glacial configuration of the GrIS. This work therefore suggests that considering the ocean as an active forcing should become standard practice in palaeo-ice-sheet modelling.
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. We would like to thank Catherine Ritz for providing the original model GRISLI and Rubén Banderas for helping initially with the model. This work was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation under the project MOCCA (Modelling Abrupt Climate Change, grant no. CGL2014-59384-R). Ilaria Tabone is funded by the Spanish National Programme for the Promotion of Talent and Its Employability (grant no. BES-2015-074097). Alexander Robinson is funded by the Marie Curie Horizon2020 project CONCLIMA (grant no. 703251). All of these simulations were performed in EOLO, the HPC of Climate Change of the International Campus of Excellence of Moncloa, funded by MECD and MICINN.