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Seasonal tidewater glacier terminus oscillations bias multi-decadal projections of ice mass change
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  • Denis Felikson,
  • Sophie Nowicki,
  • Isabel J Nias,
  • Mathieu Morlighem,
  • Helene Seroussi
Denis Felikson
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Corresponding Author:denis.felikson@nasa.gov

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Sophie Nowicki
University at Buffalo
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Isabel J Nias
University of Liverpool
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Mathieu Morlighem
University of California, Irvine
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Helene Seroussi
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
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Numerical, process-based simulations of tidewater glacier evolution are necessary to project future sea-level change under various climate scenarios. Previous work has shown that nonlinearities in tidewater glacier and ice stream dynamics can lead to biases in simulated ice mass change in the presence of noisy forcings. Ice sheet modeling projections that will be used in the upcoming IPCC Assessment Report 6 (AR6) utilize atmospheric and oceanic forcings at annual temporal resolution, omitting any higher frequency forcings. Here, we quantify the effect of seasonal (<1 year) tidewater glacier terminus oscillations on decadal-scale (30 year) mass change. We use an idealized geometry to mimic realistic tidewater glacier geometries, and investigate the impact of the magnitude of seasonal oscillations, bed slope at the glacier terminus, and basal friction law. We find that omitting seasonal terminus motion results in biased mass change projections, with up to an 18% overestimate of mass loss when seasonality is neglected. The bias is most sensitive to the magnitude of the seasonal terminus oscillations and exhibits very little sensitivity to choice of friction law. Our results show that including seasonality is required to eliminate a potential bias in ice sheet mass change projections. In order to achieve this, seasonality in atmospheric and oceanic forcings must be adequately represented and observations of seasonal terminus positions and tidewater glacier thickness changes must be acquired to evaluate numerical models.
Feb 2022Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface volume 127 issue 2. 10.1029/2021JF006249