Evolution of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet: A Numerical Study of Thermo-Mechanical Response Patterns With Changing Climate

P. Huybrechts, J. Oerlemans
1988 Annals of Glaciology  
An efficient numerical ice-sheet model, including time dependence and full thermo-mechanical coupling, has been developed in order to investigate the thermal regime and overall configuration of a polar ice sheet with respect to changing environmental conditions. From basic sensitivity experiments, in which a schematic East Antarctic ice sheet is forced with a typical glacial–interglacial climatic shift, it is found that: (i) the mutual interaction of temperature and deformation has a
more » ... effect on its steady-state configuration; (ii) in the transient mode, this climatic transition initially leads to increased ice thickness due to enhanced accumulation, after which this trend is reversed due to a warmer base. Time-scales for this reversal are of the order of 103 years in marginal zones and of 104 years in interior regions; (iii) horizontal heat advection plays a major role in damping possible runaway behaviour due to the dissipation – strain-rate feed-back, suggesting that creep instability is a rather unlikely candidate to initiate surging of the East Antarctic ice sheet. The model is then applied to four East Antarctic flow lines. Only the flow line passing through Wilkes Land appears to be vulnerable to widespread basal melting, due to enhanced basal warming following climatic warming. Time-dependent modelling of the Vostok flow line indicates that the Vostok Station area has risen about 95 m since the beginning of the present interglacial due to thermo-mechanical effects, which is of particular interest in interpreting the palaeoclimatic signal of the ice core obtained there.
doi:10.3189/s0260305500006327 fatcat:n4nyxwneznfcngzebzyky7cboi