Palaeoclimatic evolution and present conditions of the Greenland Ice Sheet in the vicinity of Summit: An approach by large-scale modelling



Using the three-dimensional numerical model SICOPOLIS for polythermal land-based ice sheets in the shallow ice approximation, simulations are performed to determine the velocity, temperature and water-content distributions as well as the evolution of the free surface, the cold-temperate-transition surface (CTS) and the basal surface within the Greenland Ice Sheet through time for a climate driving as determined by the (smoothed) GRIP palaeotemperature record. The model is driven by the temperature at the free surface, the global sea level and the geothermal heat flow 5 km below the basal surface. It uses plausible parameterizations for the accumulation rate (snowfall minus melting), the basal sliding law and the constitutive behaviour (power-law rheology), in which the fluidity difference between glacial and interglacial ice is accounted for by appropriate enhancement factors.

Computations that cover 250,000 years of climate history are performed with various sets of parameters to find optimal present conditions when compared with available data. To this end a misfit index is defined, and parameterizations are chosen so as to minimize it. It is shown that dating the ice at depth is crucially dependent on the "flux of age" into the base. However, other parameterizations such as the geothermal heat flow or the basal drag in the sliding law etc. equally influence the present geometry of the ice sheet.

We investigate the results of the best-fit simulation with particular attention to the vicinity of Summit, the highest point of the Greenland Ice Sheet at 7234'N, 3738'W, in whose vicinity the two deep ice cores GRIP and GISP2 were drilled. For these boreholes, time series for the ice thickness and the basal temperature, present temperature-depth profiles and present age-depth profiles are presented. Furthermore, the ice-surface topography and the ice thickness in the vicinity of Summit is shown, and a comparison with high-resolution RES data is performed.

Paleoclimates, 2 (2-3), 133-161 (1998).

Last modified: 2008-09-08