Modelling self-organization in ice streams
Abstract:The EISMINT II experiments revealed the tendency for idealized model ice sheets to produce spatially variable flow under certain uniform thermal, mass-balance and topographic boundary conditions. Warm, fast-flowing streams with enhanced creep were separated by zones of colder, slower flow. Similar but different spatial patterns of differentiated flow were produced by all authors. We present further experiments that explore the formation and function of such ice streams at higher modelled resolutions. These are explored by the use of flat, but stochastically rough (10 m amplitude) beds, idealized, parallel-sided model ice sheets and models of finer (12.5 and 5 km) resolutions. Ice streams self-organize irregularly, but with consistent typical spacings which vary with thermal and mass-balance boundary conditions. More radial features are produced at finer scales indicating a dependency on the grid resolution used although this is not linear; at finer resolutions streams occupy increasingly more gridcells. This variation in scale may be related to the finer resolution of the warm/cold streaming/non-streaming boundary. The numerical solution of the thermodynamic ice equation is also highly sensitive to the orthogonality of the model grid. A major deficiency is that the numerical solution appears to fail where the flow is parallel to the grid axes, suggesting that artificial diffusion in the numerical scheme helps to smooth streams lying across the axes directions. The inclusion of sliding produces fewer, more concentrated, flow features, but these also display a level of scale-dependent organization. The spatial arrangement of such streams adjusts in response to the global mass flux of the ice sheet between "warm" and "cold" flow end-members. The results point to a mechanism in which ice sheets respond to climate by altering the large-scale arrangement of their flow patterns.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: January 1, 2000
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