Poor convergence with resolution of ice sheet models when simulating grounding line migration has been known about for over a decade. However, some of the associated numerical artefacts remain absent from the published literature.
Using Elmer/Ice on idealised grounding line evolution experiments, it is shown that with insufficiently fine model resolution, a region containing multiple steady-state grounding line positions exists, with one steady state per node of the model mesh. This has important implications for the design of perturbation experiments used to test convergence of grounding line behaviour with resolution. Specifically, the design of perturbation experiments can be under-constrained, potentially leading to a “false positive” result. In this context a false positive is an experiment that appears to achieve convergence when in fact the model configuration is not close to its converged state. We demonstrate a false positive: an apparently successful perturbation experiment (i.e. reversibility is shown) for a model configuration that is not close to a converged solution. If perturbation experiments are to be used in the future, experiment design should be modified to provide additional constraints to the initialisation and spin-up requirements.
This region of multiple locally stable steady-state grounding line positions has previously been mistakenly described as neutral equilibrium. This distinction has important implications for understanding the impacts of discretising a forcing feedback involving grounding line position and basal friction. This forcing feedback cannot, in general, exist in a region of neutral equilibrium and could be the main cause of poor convergence in grounding line modelling.
Read more: Gladstone, R. M., Xia, Y., and Moore, J.,2018. Neutral equilibrium and forcing feedbacks in marine ice sheet modelling. The Cryosphere, 12, 3605-3615. doi:10.5194/tc-12-3605-2018