The interaction between ice sheets and the rest of the climate system at long time-scales is not well understood, and studies of the ice ages typically employ simplified parameterizations of the climate forcing on an ice sheet. It is important therefore to understand how an ice sheet responds to climate forcing, and whether the reduced approaches used in modeling studies are capable of providing robust and realistic answers. This work focuses on the accumulation distribution, and in particular considers what features of the accumulation pattern are necessary to model the steady-state response of an ice sheet. We examine the response of a model of the Greenland ice sheet to a variety of accumulation distributions, both observational datasets and simplified parameterizations. The predicted shape of the ice sheet is found to be quite insensitive to changes in the accumulation. The model only differs significantly from the observed ice sheet for a spatially uniform accumulation rate, and the most important factor for the successful simulation of the ice sheet’s shape is that the accumulation decreases with height according to the ability of the atmosphere to hold moisture. However, the internal ice dynamics strongly reflects the influence of the atmospheric circulation on the accumulation distribution.
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