Skip to main content Accessibility help

Role of model initialization for projections of 21st-century Greenland ice sheet mass loss

  • G. Ađalgeirsdóttir (a1) (a2), A. Aschwanden (a3) (a4), C. Khroulev (a3), F. Boberg (a1), R. Mottram (a1), P. Lucas-Picher (a5) and J.H. Christensen (a1)...


Model simulations of the Greenland ice sheet contribution to 21st-century sea-level rise are performed with a state-of-the-art ice-sheet model (Parallel Ice Sheet Model (PISM)). The climate-forcing fields are obtained from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme project ice2sea, in which three regional climate models are used to dynamically downscale two scenarios (A1B and E1) from two general circulation models (ECHAM5 and HadCM3). To assess the sensitivity of the projections to the model initial state, four initialization methods are applied. In these experiments, the simulated contribution to sea-level rise by 2100 ranges from an equivalent of 0.2 to 6.8 cm. The largest uncertainties arise from different formulations of the regional climate models (0.8–3.9 cm) and applied scenarios (0.65–1.9 cm), but an important source of uncertainty is the initialization method (0.1–0.8 cm). These model simulations do not account for the recently observed acceleration of ice streams and consequent thinning rates, the changing ice discharge that may result from the spatial and temporal variability of ocean forcing, or the feedback occurring between ice-sheet elevation changes and climate forcing. Thus the results should be considered the lower limit of Greenland ice sheet contributions to sea-level rise, until such processes have been integrated into large-scale ice-sheet models.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Role of model initialization for projections of 21st-century Greenland ice sheet mass loss
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Role of model initialization for projections of 21st-century Greenland ice sheet mass loss
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Role of model initialization for projections of 21st-century Greenland ice sheet mass loss
      Available formats



Hide All
Alley, RB and Joughin, I (2012) Modeling ice-sheet flow. Science, 336(6081), 551552 (doi: 10.1126/science.1220530)
Alley, RB, Clark, PU, Huybrechts, P and Joughin, I (2005) Ice-sheet and sea-level changes. Science, 310(5747), 456460 (doi:10.1126/science.1114613)
Arthern, RJ and Gudmundsson, GH (2010) Initialization of ice-sheet forecasts viewed as an inverse Robin problem. J. Glaciol., 56(197), 527533 (doi: 10.3189/002214310792447699)
Aschwanden, A, Bueler, E, Khroulev, C and Blatter, H (2012) An enthalpy formulation for glaciers and ice sheets. J. Glaciol., 58(209), 441457 (doi: 10.3189/2012JoG11J088)
Aschwanden, A, Aðalsgeirsdóttir, G and Khroulev, C (2013) Hindcasting to measure ice sheet model sensitivity to initial states. Cryosphere, 7(4), 10831093 (doi: 10.5194/tc-7–1083–2013)
Bamber, JL and 10 others (2013) A new bed elevation dataset for Greenland. Cryosphere, 7(2), 499510 (doi: 10.5194/tc-7–499–2013)
Bindschadler, RA and 27 others (2013) Ice-sheet model sensitivities to environmental forcing and their use in projecting future sea level (the SeaRISE project). J. Glaciol., 59(214), 195224 (doi: 10.3189/2013JoG12J125)
Box, JE, Bromwich, DH and Bai, L-S (2004) Greenland ice sheet surface mass balance for 1991–2000: application of Polar MM5 mesoscale model and in-situ data. J. Geophys. Res., 109(D16), D16105 (doi: 10.1029/2003JD004451)
Box, JE and 8 others (2006) Greenland ice sheet surface mass balance variability (1988–2004) from calibrated polar MM5 output. J. Climate, 19(12), 27832800 (doi: 10.1175/JCLI3738.1)
Box, JE, Fettweis, X, Stroeve, JC, Tedesco, M, Hall, DK and Steffen, K (2012) Greenland ice sheet albedo feedback: thermodynamics and atmospheric drivers. Cryosphere, 6(4), 821839 (doi: 10.5194/tc-6–821–2012)
Brinkerhoff, DJ and Johnson, JV (2013) Data assimilation and prognostic whole ice sheet modelling with the variationally derived, higher order, open source, and fully parallel ice sheet model VarGlaS. Cryosphere, 7(4), 11611184 (doi: 10.5194/tc-7–1161–2013)
Bueler, E and Brown, J (2009) Shallow shelf approximation as a ‘sliding law’ in a thermomechanically coupled ice sheet model. J. Geophys. Res., 114(F3), F03008 (doi: 10.1029/2008JF001179)
Bueler, E, Lingle, CS and Brown, J (2007) Fast computation of a viscoelastic deformable Earth model for ice-sheet simulations. Ann. Glaciol., 46, 97105 (doi: 10.3189/172756407782871567)
Calov, R and Greve, R (2005) Correspondence. A semi-analytical solution for the positive degree-day model with stochastic temperature variations. J. Glaciol., 51(172), 173175 (doi:10.3189/172756505781829601)
Church, JA and 13 others (2013) Sea level change. In Stocker, TF and 9 others eds. Climate change 2013: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group 1 to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Cogley, JG and 10 others (2011) Glossary of glacier mass balance and related terms. (IHP-VII Technical Documents in Hydrology 86) UNESCO–International Hydrological Programme, Paris
Dansgaard, W and 10 others (1993) Evidence for general instability of past climate from a 250-kyr ice-core record. Nature, 364(6434), 218220 (doi: 10.1038/364218a0)
Dee, DP and 35 others (2011) The ERA-Interim reanalysis: configuration and performance of the data assimilation system. Q. J. R. Meteorol. Soc., 137(656), 553597 (doi: 10.1002/qj.828)
Docquier, D, Perichon, L and Pattyn, F (2011) Representing grounding line dynamics in numerical ice sheet models: recent advances and outlook. Surv. Geophys., 32(4–5), 417435 (doi:10.1007/s10712–011–9133–3)
Ettema, J and 6 others (2009) Higher surface mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet revealed by high-resolution climate modelling. Geophys. Res. Lett., 36(12), L12501 (doi: 10.1029/2009GL038110)
Fettweis, X, Gallée, H, Lefebre, F and Van Ypersele, JP (2005) Greenland surface mass balance simulated by a regional climate model and comparison with satellite-derived data in 1990–1991. Climate Dyn., 24(6), 623640 (doi: 10.1007/s00382–005–0010-y)
Fettweis, X, Tedesco, M, Van den Broeke, M and Ettema, J (2011) Melting trends over the Greenland ice sheet (1958–2009) from spaceborne microwave data and regional climate models. Cryosphere, 5(2), 359375 (doi: 10.5194/tc-5–359–2011)
Gillet-Chaulet, F and 8 others (2012) Greenland Ice Sheet contribution to sea-level rise from a new-generation ice-sheet model. Cryosphere, 6(4), 15611576 (doi: 10.5194/tc-6–1561–2012)
Goelzer, H and 8 others (2013) Sensitivity of Greenland ice sheet projections to model formulations. J. Glaciol., 59(216), 733749 (doi: 10.3189/2013JoG12J182)
Gordon, C and 7 others (2000) The simulation of SST, sea ice extents and ocean heat transports in a version of the Hadley Centre coupled model without flux adjustments. Climate Dyn., 16(2–3), 147168 (doi: 10.1007/s003820050010)
Graversen, RG, Drijfhout, S, Hazeleger, W, Van de Wal, R, Bintanja, R and Helsen, M (2011) Greenland’s contribution to global sea-level rise by the end of the 21st century. Climate Dyn., 37(7–8), 14271442 (doi: 10.1007/s00382–010–0918–8)
Gregory, JM and Huybrechts, P (2006) Ice-sheet contributions to future sea-level change. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. London, Ser. A, 364(1844), 17091731 (doi: 10.1098/rsta.2006.1796)
Greve, R (1997) Application of a polythermal three-dimensional ice sheet model to the Greenland ice sheet: response to steady-state and transient climate scenarios. J. Climate, 10(5), 901918 (doi:10.1175/1520–0442(1997)010<0901:AOAPTD>2.0.CO;2)
Greve, R (2005) Relation of measured basal temperatures and the spatial distribution of the geothermal heat flux for the Greenland ice sheet. Ann. Glaciol., 42(1), 424432 (doi: 10.3189/172756405781812510)
Hanna, E and 8 others (2008) Increased runoff from melt from the Greenland Ice Sheet: a response to global warming. J. Climate, 21(2), 331341 (doi: 10.1175/2007JCLI1964.1)
Holland, DM, Thomas, RH, de Young, B, Ribergaard, MH and Lyberth, B (2008) Acceleration of Jakobshavn Isbræ triggered by warm subsurface ocean waters. Nature Geosci., 1(10), 659664 (doi:10.1038/ngeo316)
Howat, IM, Joughin, IR and Scambos, TA (2007) Rapid changes in ice discharge from Greenland outlet glaciers. Science, 315(5818), 15591561 (doi: 10.1126/science.1138478)
Huybrechts, P (2002) Sea-level changes at the LGM from ice-dynamic reconstructions of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets during the glacial cycles. Quat. Sci. Rev., 21(1–3), 203231 (doi: 10.1016/S0277–3791(01)00082–8)
Huybrechts, P and de Wolde, J (1999) The dynamic response of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to multiple-century climatic warming. J. Climate, 12(8), 21692188 (doi: 10.1175/1520–0442(1999)012<2169:TDROTG>2.0.CO;2)
Jones, R and 6 others (2004) Generating high resolution climate change scenarios using PRECIS. (National Communications Support Unit Handbook) Met Office Hadley Centre, Exeter
Joughin, I and 6 others (2012) Seasonal to decadal scale variations in the surface velocity of Jakobshavn Isbræ, Greenland: observation and model-based analysis. J. Geophys. Res., 117(F2), F02030 (doi: 10.1029/2011JF002110)
Khan, SA and 13 others (2013) Recurring dynamically induced thinning during 1985 to 2010 on Upernavik Isstrøm, West Greenland. J. Geophys. Res., 118(F1), 111121 (doi: 10.1029/2012JF002481)
Khroulev, C and PISM, Team (2012) PISM, a parallel ice sheet model: user’s manual.
Larour, E, Seroussi, H, Morlighem, M and Rignot, E (2012) Continental scale, high order, high spatial resolution, ice sheet modeling using the Ice Sheet System Model (ISSM). J. Geophys. Res., 117(F1), F01022 (doi: 10.1029/2011JF002140)
Letréguilly, A, Reeh, N and Huybrechts, P (1991) The Greenland ice sheet through the last glacial–interglacial cycle. Global Planet. Change, 90(4), 385394 (doi: 10.1016/0921–8181(91)90004-G)
Lowe, JA and 6 others (2009) New study for climate modeling, analyses, and scenarios. Eos, 90(21), 181182 (doi: 10.1029/2009EO210001)
Lucas-Picher, P, Wulff-Nielsen, M, Christensen, JH, Aðalsgeirsdóttir, G, Mottram, R and Simonsen, SB (2012) Very high resolution regional climate model simulations over Greenland: identifying added value. J. Geophys. Res., 117(D2), D02108 (doi: 10.1029/2011JD016267)
Luckman, A, Murray, T, de Lange, R and Hanna, E (2006) Rapid and synchronous ice-dynamic changes in East Greenland. Geophys. Res. Lett., 33(3), L03503 (doi: 10.1029/2005GL025428)
Luthcke, SB, Sabaka, TJ, Loomis, BD, Arendt, A, McCarthy, JJ and Camp, J (2013) Antarctica, Greenland and Gulf of Alaska land-ice evolution from an iterated GRACE global mascon solution. J. Glaciol., 59(216), 613631 (doi: 10.3189/2013JoG12J147)
Martin, MA and 6 others (2011) The Potsdam Parallel Ice Sheet Model (PISM-PIK) – Part 2: Dynamic equilibrium simulation of the Antarctic ice sheet. Cryosphere, 5(3), 727740 (doi: 10.5194/tc-5–727–2011)
Maule, CF, Purucker, ME, Olsen, N and Mosegaard, K (2005) Heat flux anomalies in Antarctica revealed by satellite magnetic data. Science, 309(5733), 464467 (doi: 10.1126/science.1106888)
Maule, CF, Purucker, ME and Olsen, N (2009) Inferring magnetic crustal thickness and geothermal heat flux from crustal magnetic field models. (Danish Climate Centre Report 09–09) Danish Meteorological Institute–09.pdf
Mernild, SH, Liston, GE, Hiemstra, CA and Christensen, JH (2010) Greenland Ice Sheet surface mass-balance modeling in a 131-year perspective 1950–2080. J. Hydromet., 11(1), 325 (doi:10.1175/2009jhm1140.1)
Mikolajewicz, U, Vizcaíno, M, Jungclaus, J and Schurgers, G (2007) Effect of ice sheet interactions in anthropogenic climate change simulations. Geophys. Res. Lett., 34(18), L18706 (doi: 10.1029/2007GL031173)
Moon, T, Joughin, I, Smith, B and Howat, I (2012) 21st-century evolution of Greenland outlet glacier velocities. Science, 336(6081), 576578 (doi: 10.1126/science.1219985)
Nakićenović, N and Swart, R eds (2000) Emissions scenarios: a special report of Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Pritchard, HD, Arthern, RJ, Vaughan, DG and Edwards, LA (2009) Extensive dynamic thinning on the margins of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Nature, 461(7266), 971975 (doi: 10.1038/nature08471)
Rae, JGL and 14 others (2012) Greenland ice sheet surface mass balance: evaluating simulations and making projections with regional climate models. Cryosphere, 6(6), 12751294 (doi: 10.5194/tc-6–1275–2012)
Ren, D, Fu, R, Leslie, LM, Karoly, DJ, Chen, J and Wilson, C (2011) A multirheology ice model: formulation and application to the Greenland ice sheet. J. Geophys. Res., 116(D5), D05112 (doi: 10.1029/2010JD014855)
Ridley, JK, Huybrechts, P, Gregory, JM and Lowe, JA (2005) Elimination of the Greenland Ice Sheet in a high CO2 climate. J. Climate, 18(17), 34093427 (doi: 10.1175/JCLI3482.1)
Rignot, E and Kanagaratnam, P (2006) Changes in the velocity structure of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Science, 311(5673), 986990 (doi: 10.1126/science.1121381)
Rignot, E, Velicogna, I, Van den Broeke, MR, Monaghan, A and Lenaerts, J (2011) Acceleration of the contribution of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to sea level rise. Geophys. Res. Lett., 38(5), L05503 (doi: 10.1029/2011GL046583)
Ritz, C, Fabre, A and Letréguilly, A (1996) Sensitivity of a Greenland ice sheet model to ice flow and ablation parameters: consequences for the evolution through the last climatic cycle. Climate Dyn., 13(1), 1123 (doi: 10.1007/s003820050149)
Roeckner, E and 13 others (2003) The atmospheric general circulation model ECHAM5, Part I: model description. (Report 349) Max-Planck-Institut für Meteorologie, Hamburg
Rogozhina, I, Martinec, Z, Hagedoorn, JM, Thomas, M and Fleming, K (2011) On the long-term memory of the Greenland Ice Sheet. J. Geophys. Res., 116(F1), F01011 (doi: 10.1029/2010JF001787)
Sasgen, I and 8 others (2012) Timing and origin of recent regional ice-mass loss in Greenland. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 333–334, 293303 (doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2012.03.033)
Schoof, C and Hindmarsh, RCA (2010) Thin-film flows with wall slip: an asymptotic analysis of higher order glacier flow models. Q. J. Mech. Appl. Math., 63(1), 73114 (doi: 10.1093/qjmam/hbp025)
Seddik, H, Greve, R, Zwinger, T, Gillet-Chaulet, F and Gagliardini, O (2012) Simulations of the Greenland ice sheet 100 years into the future with the full Stokes model Elmer/Ice. J. Glaciol., 58(209), 427440 (doi: 10.3189/2012JoG11J177)
Seroussi, H, Morlighem, M, Rignot, E, Khazendar, A, Larour, E and Mouginot, J (2013) Dependence of century-scale projections of the Greenland ice sheet on its thermal regime. J. Glaciol., 59(218), 10241034 (doi: 10.3189/2013JoG13J054)
Shapiro, NM and Ritzwoller, MH (2004) Inferring surface heat flux distribution guided by a global seismic model: particular application to Antarctica. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 223(1–2), 213224 (doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2004.04.011)
Shepherd, A and 46 others (2012) A reconciled estimate of ice-sheet mass balance. Science, 338(6111), 11831189 (doi: 10.1126/science.1228102)
Solgaard, AM and Langen, PL (2012) Multistability of the Greenland ice sheet and the effects of an adaptive mass balance formulation. Climate Dyn., 39(7–8), 15991612 (doi: 10.1007/s00382–012–1305–4)
Solgaard, AM, Reeh, N, Japsen, P and Nielsen, T (2011) Snapshots of the Greenland ice sheet configuration in the Pliocene to early Pleistocene. J. Glaciol., 57(205), 871880 (doi: 10.3189/002214311798043816)
Solomon, S and 7 others eds (2007) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Sørensen, LS and 7 others (2011) Mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet (2003–2008) from ICESat data – the impact of interpolation, sampling and firn density. Cryosphere, 5(1), 173186 (doi: 10.5194/tc-5–173–2011)
Tarasov, L and Peltier, WR (2003) Greenland glacial history, borehole constraints, and Eemian extent. J. Geophys. Res., 108(B3), 2143 (doi: 10.1029/2001JB001731)
Tedesco, M and 6 others (2013) Evidence and analysis of 2012 Greenland records from spaceborne observations, a regional climate model and reanalysis data. Cryosphere, 7(2), 615630 (doi: 10.5194/tc-7–615–2013)
Van den Broeke, M and 8 others (2009) Partitioning recent Greenland mass loss. Science, 326(5955), 984986 (doi:10.1126/science.1178176)
Vaughan, DG and Arthern, R (2007) Why is it hard to predict the future of ice sheets? Science, 315(5818), 15031504 (doi:10.1126/science.1141111)
Velicogna, I and Wahr, J (2006) Acceleration of Greenland ice mass loss in spring 2004. Nature, 443(7109), 329331 (doi: 10.1038/nature05168)
Vieli, A and Nick, FM (2011) Understanding and modelling rapid dynamic changes of tidewater outlet glaciers: issues and implications. Surv. Geophys., 32(4–5), 437458 (doi: 10.1007/s10712–011–9132–4)
Vizcaíno, M, Mikolajewicz, U, Jungclaus, J and Schurgers, G (2010) Climate modification by future ice sheet changes and consequences for ice sheet mass balance. Climate Dyn., 34(2–3), 301324 (doi: 10.1007/s00382–009–0591-y)
Winkelmann, R and 6 others (2011) The Potsdam Parallel Ice Sheet Model (PISM-PIK) – Part 1: Model description. Cryosphere, 5(3), 715726 (doi: 10.5194/tc-5–715–2011)
Wouters, B, Chambers, D and Schrama, EJO (2008) GRACE observes small-scale mass loss in Greenland. Geophys. Res. Lett., 35(2), L20501 (doi: 10.1029/2008GL034816)
Yan, Q, Wang, H, Johannessen, OM and Zhang, Z (2014) Greenland ice sheet contribution to future global sea level rise based on CMIP5 models. Adv. Atmos. Sci., 31(1), 816 (doi: 10.1007/s00376–013–3002–6)


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Role of model initialization for projections of 21st-century Greenland ice sheet mass loss

  • G. Ađalgeirsdóttir (a1) (a2), A. Aschwanden (a3) (a4), C. Khroulev (a3), F. Boberg (a1), R. Mottram (a1), P. Lucas-Picher (a5) and J.H. Christensen (a1)...


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.