Disintegration of Marine Ice-sheets Using Novel Optimised Simulations

Principal investigator

Projected rates of sea level rise from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (and Thwaites Glacier in particular) have large uncertainties due to difficulties in understanding and projecting the calving and dynamic processes that control the ice sheet stability. This uncertainty is magnified by the poorly understood connection between calving processes, ice sheet stability and climate. To address these uncertainties, our proposal seeks to explicitly resolve the processes that could cause retreat and collapse of Thwaites Glacier using a novel ice-dynamics model suite. This model suite includes a discrete element model capable of simulating coupled fracture and ice-flow processes, a 3D full Stokes continuum model, and the continental scale ice-dynamics model BISICLES. Ice dynamics models will be coupled to an ocean forcing model suite including simple plume models, intermediate complexity 2-layer ocean models and fully 3D regional ocean models. This hierarchical approach will use high-fidelity process models to inform and constrain the sequence of lower-order models needed to extrapolate improved understanding to larger scales and has the potential to radically reduce uncertainty of rates of marine ice sheet collapse and associated sea level rise. The large-scale modeling approach will be tested and implemented within the open source BISICLES ice dynamics model and made publicly available to other researchers via a “calving package.”