Climate Dynamics

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 205–215 | Cite as

The small ice cap instability in seasonal energy balance models

  • Jin Huang
  • Kenneth P Bowman


Results from a two-dimensional energy balance model with a realistic land-ocean distribution show that the small ice cap instability exists in the Southern Hemisphere, but not in the Northern Hemisphere. A series of experiments with a one-dimensional energy balance model with idealized geography are used to study the roles of the seasonal cycle and the land-ocean distribution. The results indicate that the seasonal cycle and land-ocean distribution can influence the strength of the albedo feedback, which is responsible for the small ice cap instability, through two factors: the temperature gradient and the amplitude of the seasonal cycle. The land-ocean distribution in the Southern Hemisphere favors the small ice cap instability, while the land-ocean distribution in the Northern Hemisphere does not. Because of the longitudinal variations of land-ocean distribution in the Northern Hemisphere, the behavior of ice lines in the Northern Hemisphere cannot be simulated and explained by the model with zonally symmetric land-ocean distribution. Model results suggest that the small ice cap instability may be a possible mechanism for the formation of the Antarctic icesheet. The model results cast doubt, however, on the role of the small ice cap instability in Northern Hemisphere glaciations.


Temperature Gradient Northern Hemisphere Southern Hemisphere Seasonal Cycle Longitudinal Variation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jin Huang
    • 1
  • Kenneth P Bowman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

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