Vesfonna Ice Cap: Mass-balance/elevation feedback

Written by Thomas Zwinger.

Vestfonna cross sectionFull two-way coupling between mass-balance models and ice flow models brings along substantial technical challenges. In this paper the authors examine some coupling effects for the Vestfonna ice cap, Nordaustlandet, Svalbard, by analyzing the impacts of different coupling intervals on mass-balance and sea-level rise (SLR) projections. They show that neglecting the topographic feedback in the coupling leads to underestimations of 10–20% in SLR projections on century timescales in our model. Fast-flowing outlet glaciers decrease in impacting SLR due to their deceleration and reduced mass flux as they thin and retreat from the coast. By introduction of a method to estimate errors introduced by different coupling schemes it is shown that parameterizing mass-balance adjustment for changes in topography using lapse rates is a cost-effective reasonably accurate alternative to full coupling.


Schäfer M., M. Möller, T. Zwinger and J.C. Moore, 2015. Dynamic modelling of future glacier changes: mass-balance/elevation feedback in projections for the Vestfonna ice cap, Nordaustlandet, Svalbard. Journal of Glaciology, 61, 1121-1136 doi:10.3189/2015JoG14J184.

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