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An enthalpy formulation for glaciers and ice sheets

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Polythermal conditions are ubiquitous among glaciers, from small valley glaciers to ice sheets. Conventional temperature-based 'cold-ice' models of such ice masses cannot account for that portion of the internal energy which is latent heat of liquid water within temperate ice, so such schemes are not energy-conserving when temperate ice is present. Temperature and liquid water fraction are, however, functions of a single enthalpy variable: a small enthalpy change in cold ice is a change in temperature, while a small enthalpy change in temperate ice is a change in liquid water fraction. The unified enthalpy formulation described here models the mass and energy balance for the three-dimensional ice fluid, for the surface runoff layer and for the subglacial hydrology layer, together in a single energy-conserving theoretical framework. It is implemented in the Parallel Ice Sheet Model. Results for the Greenland ice sheet are compared with those from a cold-ice scheme. This paper is intended to be an accessible foundation for enthalpy formulations in glaciology.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2012

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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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