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Numerical experiments on subaqueous melting of Greenland tidewater glaciers in response to ocean warming and enhanced subglacial discharge

  • Yun Xu (a1), Eric Rignot (a1) (a2), Dimitris Menemenlis (a2) and Michele Koppes (a3)
Abstract
Abstract

The largest dischargers of ice in Greenland are glaciers that terminate in the ocean and melt in contact with sea water. Studies of ice-sheet/ocean interactions have mostly focused on melting beneath near-horizontal floating ice shelves. For tidewater glaciers, melting instead takes place along the vertical face of the calving front. Here we modify the Massachusetts Institute of Technology general circulation model (MITgcm) to include ice melting from a calving face with the freshwater outflow at the glacier grounding line. We use the model to predict melt rates and their sensitivity to ocean thermal forcing and to subglacial discharge. We find that melt rates increase with approximately the one-third power of the subglacial water flux, and increase linearly with ocean thermal forcing. Our simulations indicate that, consistent with limited field data, melting ceases when subglacial discharge is shut off, and reaches several meters per day when subglacial discharge is high in the summer. These results are a first step toward a more realistic representation of subglacial discharge and of ocean thermal forcing on the subaqueous melting of tidewater glaciers in a numerical ocean model. Our results illustrate that the ice-front melting process is both complex and strongly time-dependent.

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Annals of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0260-3055
  • EISSN: 1727-5644
  • URL: /core/journals/annals-of-glaciology
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