Surveys in Geophysics

, Volume 32, Issue 4–5, pp 417–435 | Cite as

Representing Grounding Line Dynamics in Numerical Ice Sheet Models: Recent Advances and Outlook



Recent satellite observations of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets show accelerated ice flow and associated ice sheet thinning along coastal outlet glaciers in contact with the ocean. Both processes are the result of grounding line retreat due to melting at the grounding line (the grounding line is the contact of the ice sheet with the ocean, where it starts to float and forms an ice shelf or ice tongue). Such rapid ice loss is not yet included in large-scale ice sheet models used for IPCC projections, as most of the complex processes are poorly understood. Here we report on the state-of-the art of grounding line migration in marine ice sheets and address different ways in which grounding line migration can be attributed and represented in ice sheet models. Using one-dimensional ice flow models of the ice sheet/ice shelf system we carried out a number of sensitivity experiments with different spatial resolutions and stress approximations. These are verified with semi-analytical steady state solutions. Results show that, in large-scale finite-difference models, grounding line migration is dependent on the numerical treatment (e.g. staggered/non-staggered grid) and the level of physics involved (e.g. shallow-ice/shallow-shelf approximation).


Marine ice sheet instability Grounding line Ice sheet modeling West Antarctic ice sheet 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire de GlaciologieUniversité Libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium

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