Modelling the impact of surface melt on the hydrology and dynamics of the Greenland Ice Sheet

Change log
Koziol, Conrad Pawel 

Increasing surface runoff from the Greenland Ice Sheet due to a warming climate not only accelerates ice mass loss by altering surface mass balance, but may also lead to increased dynamic losses. This is because surface melt draining to the bed can reduce ice-bed coupling, leading to faster ice flow. Understanding the impact of surface melt on ice dynamics is important for constraining the contribution of the Greenland Ice Sheet to sea level rise.

The aim of this thesis is to numerically model the influence of surface runoff on ice velocities. Three new models are presented: an updated supraglacial hydrology model incorporating moulin and crevasse drainage, along with lake drainage over the ice surface via channel incision; an ice sheet model implementing a numerically efficient formulation of ice flow; an adjoint code of the ice flow model based on automatic differentiation. Together with a subglacial hydrology model, these represent the key components of the ice sheet system.

The supraglacial hydrology model is calibrated in the Paakitsoq region. Model output shows the partitioning of melt between different drainage pathways and the spatial distribution of surface drainage. Melt season intensity is found to be a relevant factor for both.

A key challenge for simulations applying a coupled ice-flow/hydrology model is state and parameter initialization. This challenge is addressed by developing a new workflow for incorporating modelled subglacial water pressures into inversions of basal drag. A current subglacial hydrology model is run for a winter season, and the output is incorporated into the workflow to invert for basal drag at the start of summer in the Russell Glacier area. Comparison of the modelled subglacial system to observations suggests that model output is more in line with summer conditions than winter conditions.

A multicomponent model integrating the main components of the ice sheet system is developed and applied to the Russell Glacier area. A coupled ice-flow/hydrology model is initialized using the proposed workflow, and driven using output from the supraglacial hydrology model. Three recent melt seasons are modelled. To a first order, predicted ice velocities match measured velocities at multiple GPS sites. This affirms the conceptual model that summer velocity patterns are driven by transitions between distributed and channelized subglacial hydrological systems.

Arnold, Neil
Glaciology, Greenland, Numerical Modelling
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
St John's College Benefactors' Scholarship