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SHMIP The subglacial hydrology model intercomparison Project


Subglacial hydrology plays a key role in many glaciological processes, including ice dynamics via the modulation of basal sliding. Owing to the lack of an overarching theory, however, a variety of model approximations exist to represent the subglacial drainage system. The Subglacial Hydrology Model Intercomparison Project (SHMIP) provides a set of synthetic experiments to compare existing and future models. We present the results from 13 participating models with a focus on effective pressure and discharge. For many applications (e.g. steady states and annual variations, low input scenarios) a simple model, such as an inefficient-system-only model, a flowline or lumped model, or a porous-layer model provides results comparable to those of more complex models. However, when studying short term (e.g. diurnal) variations of the water pressure, the use of a two-dimensional model incorporating physical representations of both efficient and inefficient drainage systems yields results that are significantly different from those of simpler models and should be preferentially applied. The results also emphasise the role of water storage in the response of water pressure to transient recharge. Finally, we find that the localisation of moulins has a limited impact except in regions of sparse moulin density.

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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: Basile de Fleurian <>; Mauro A. Werder <>
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