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Dynamic modelling of future glacier changes: mass-balance/elevation feedback in projections for the Vestfonna ice cap, Nordaustlandet, Svalbard

  • M. Schäfer (a1) (a2), M. Möller (a3), T. Zwinger (a4) and J.C. Moore (a1) (a5)

Future projections of the evolution of ice caps as well as ice sheets and consequent sea-level rise face several methodological challenges, one being the two-way coupling between ice flow and mass-balance models. Full two-way coupling between mass-balance models – or, in a wider scope, climate models – and ice flow models has rarely been implemented due to substantial technical challenges. Here we examine some coupling effects for the Vestfonna ice cap, Nordaustlandet, Svalbard, by analysing the impacts of different coupling intervals on mass-balance and sea-level rise projections. By comparing coupled to traditionally deployed uncoupled strategies, we prove that neglecting the topographic feedbacks in the coupling leads to underestimations of 10–20% in sea-level rise projections on century timescales in our model. As imposed climate scenarios increasingly change mass balance, uncertainties in the unknown evolution of the fast-flowing outlet glaciers decrease in importance due to their deceleration and reduced mass flux as they thin and retreat from the coast. Parameterizing mass-balance adjustment for changes in topography using lapse rates as a cost-effective alternative to full coupling produces satisfactory results for modest climate change scenarios. We introduce a method to estimate the error of the presented partially coupled model with respect to as yet unperformed two-way fully coupled results.

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      Dynamic modelling of future glacier changes: mass-balance/elevation feedback in projections for the Vestfonna ice cap, Nordaustlandet, Svalbard
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      Dynamic modelling of future glacier changes: mass-balance/elevation feedback in projections for the Vestfonna ice cap, Nordaustlandet, Svalbard
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Corresponding author
Correspondence: M. Schäfer <>; M. MMöllerller <>
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The first two authors contributed equally to this work.

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Journal of Glaciology
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