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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2018-81
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 09 Jul 2018

Research article | 09 Jul 2018

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Climate of the Past (CP).

Eemian Greenland Surface Mass Balance strongly sensitive to SMB model choice

Andreas Plach1, Kerim H. Nisancioglu1,2, Sébastien Le clec’h3,4, Andreas Born1,5,6, Petra M. Langebroek7, Chuncheng Guo7, Michael Imhof8,5, and Thomas F. Stocker5,6 Andreas Plach et al.
  • 1Department of Earth Science, University of Bergen and Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Bergen, Norway
  • 2Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  • 3Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, LSCE/IPSL, CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, Université Paris-Saclay, F-91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 4Earth System Science and Department Geografie, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium
  • 5Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics Institute, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  • 6Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  • 7Uni Research Climate and Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Bergen, Norway
  • 8Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland

Abstract. Understanding the behavior of the Greenland ice sheet in a warmer climate, and particularly its surface mass balance (SMB), is important for assessing Greenland’s potential contribution to future sea level rise. The Eemian interglacial, the most recent warmer-than-present period in Earth’s history approximately 125000 years ago, provides an analogue for a warm summer climate over Greenland. The Eemian is characterized by a positive Northern Hemisphere summer insolation anomaly, which introduces uncertainties in Eemian SMB when using positive degree day estimates. In this study, we use Eemian global and regional climate simulations in combination with three types of SMB models – a simple positive degree day, an intermediate complexity, and a full surface energy balance model – to evaluate the importance of regional climate and model complexity for estimates of Greenland SMB. We find that all SMB models perform well under the relatively cool pre-industrial and late Eemian. For the relatively warm early Eemian, the differences between SMB models are large which is associated with the representation of insolation in the respective models. For all simulated time slices there is a systematic difference between globally and regionally forced SMB models, due to the different representation of the regional climate over Greenland. We conclude that both the resolution of the simulated climate as well as the method used to estimate the SMB, are important for an accurate simulation of Greenland’s SMB. Whether model resolution or SMB method is most important depends on the climate state and in particular the prevailing insolation pattern. We suggest that future Eemian climate model inter-comparison studies are combined with different SMB models to quantify Eemian SMB uncertainty estimates.

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Short summary
The Greenland Ice Sheet is a huge frozen water storage which is crucial for predictions of sea level in the future warmer climate. It is important to have computer models available which can simulate ice sheet surface melt reliably. We use climate model simulations of the last period it was warmer than today on Greenland and test different melt models under these climatic conditions. The simulated melt is strongly dependent on the melt model used indicating that not all melt models are reliable.
The Greenland Ice Sheet is a huge frozen water storage which is crucial for predictions of sea...
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