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A comparison of Eulerian and Lagrangian methods for dating in numerical ice-sheet models

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Accurate dating in ice sheets is required for a correct interpretation of palaeoclimatic records and for incorporation of material characteristics in the flow law which depend on ice age. In this paper, we make a comparison between a Lagrangian and Eulerian approach to the ice advection problem in numerical ice-sheet models. This comparison is first performed for a schematic two-dimensional ice sheet of Nye-Vialov type with a prescribed stationary velocity field. Several cases are examined which incorporate basal melting, basal sliding and an undulating bed. A further comparison is made with an analytical solution for the ice divide. Both methods are also applied in a thermomechanical model of the Antarctic ice sheet for steady-state present-day conditions. Our main conclusion is that, for similar discretization parameters, the Lagrangian method produces less error than an Eulerian approach using a second-order upwinding finitedifference scheme, though the difference is small (<1%) for the largest part of the model domain. However, problems with the Lagrangian approach are introduced by the dispersion of tracers, necessitating the use of interpolation procedures that are a main source of additional error. It is also shown that a cubic-spline approximation of Lagrangian trajectories improves accuracy, but such a method is computationally hardly applicable in large-scale ice-sheet models.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2003-06-01

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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