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Numerical modelling of the ice sheet in western Dronning Maud Land, East Antarctica: impacts of present, past and future climates

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Time-dependent ice-sheet modelling of a 176 000 km2 area in western Dronning Maud Land, East Antarctica, provided information on the ice sheet's response to six climate-change scenarios. Another experiment was done to study changes in ice thickness, flow and basal temperature conditions between the present ice configuration and a simulated maximum palaeo-ice sheet. The input to the model included new datasets of bed and surface topography compiled for this study. The results of the six climate-change experiments, including a 0.5°C per century global-warming scenario, show that the ice sheet has a robust behaviour with respect to the different climate changes. The maximum change in ice volume was <5% of the initial volume in all climate runs. This is for only relatively short-term climate changes without major changes in global sea level, and also a simulated ice sheet without an ice shelf. The modelled long-term response time of the ice sheet, 20 kyr or more, indicates that the ice sheet may still be adjusting to the climate change that ended the Last Glacial Maximum. In the maximum palaeo-ice-sheet simulation, with a 5°C climate cooling and the grounding line located at the continental-shelf margin, ice thickness increased drastically downstream from the Heimefrontfjella mountain range but remained basically unaffected on the upstream polar plateau. Com- pared to present conditions, complex changes in basal temperatures were observed. The extent of areas with basal melting increased, for example in the deep trough of the Vest- straumen ice stream. Areas at intermediate elevations in the landscape also experienced increased basal temperatures, with significant areas reaching the melting point. In contrast, high-altitude areas that today are clearly cold-based, such as around Heimefrontfjella and Vestfjella and the Högisen dome, experienced a 5–10°C decrease in basal temperatures in the palaeo-ice-sheet reconstruction. The results suggest that the alpine landscape within these mountain regions was formed by wet-based local glaciers and ice sheets prior to the late Cenozoic.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2000

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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