PerspectiveClimate Change

Modeling Ice-Sheet Flow

Science  04 May 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6081, pp. 551-552
DOI: 10.1126/science.1220530

You are currently viewing the summary.

View Full Text

Via your Institution

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution


Summary

The great Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are the “wild cards” in projections of sea-level change (1). Early models of the coupled ocean-atmosphere system treated the ice sheets as static white mountains. Observations since then have shown that ice sheets can change quickly (2): In some places, the tides strongly modulate coastal ice flow; in others, warming-induced ice-shelf loss has caused the flow speed of the subsequently unbuttressed inland ice to increase almost 10-fold within a few weeks (3, 4). A new generation of full-stress ice-sheet models incorporates the physics needed to reproduce such processes (see the figure) (57). Including full stresses does improve ice-flow simulations (8). Well-validated, robust projections of ice-sheet behavior under climate change nevertheless remain a challenge, as they will require an ensemble of model ice sheets coupled to the rest of the climate system.