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Modeling the evolution of the Juneau Icefield between 1971 and 2100 using the Parallel Ice Sheet Model (PISM)


We study the evolution of the Juneau Icefield, one of the largest icefields in North America (>3700 km2), using the Parallel Ice Sheet Model (PISM). We test two climate datasets: 20 km Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) output, and data from the Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning (SNAP), derived from spatial interpolation of observations. Good agreement between simulated and observed surface mass balance was achieved only after substantially adjusting WRF precipitation to account for unresolved orographic effects, while SNAP's climate pattern is incompatible with observations of surface mass balance. Using the WRF data forced with the RCP6.0 emission scenario, the model projects a decrease in ice volume by 58–68% and a 57–63% area loss by 2099 compared with 2010. If the modeled 2070–99 climate is held constant beyond 2099, the icefield is eliminated by 2200. With constant 1971–2010 climate, the icefield stabilizes at 86% of its present-day volume. Experiments started from an ice-free state indicate that steady-state volumes are largely independent of the initial ice volume when forced by identical scenarios of climate stabilization. Despite large projected volume losses, the complex high-mountain topography makes the Juneau Icefield less susceptible to climate warming than low-lying Alaskan icefields.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
Correspondence: F. A. Ziemen <>
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