Articles | Volume 6, issue 4
The Cryosphere, 6, 771–783, 2012

Special issue: Interactions between climate change and the Cryosphere: SVALI,...

The Cryosphere, 6, 771–783, 2012

Research article 17 Jul 2012

Research article | 17 Jul 2012

Sensitivity of basal conditions in an inverse model: Vestfonna ice cap, Nordaustlandet/Svalbard

M. Schäfer1, T. Zwinger2,3, P. Christoffersen4, F. Gillet-Chaulet5, K. Laakso6,*, R. Pettersson7, V. A. Pohjola7, T. Strozzi8, and J. C. Moore1,3,7 M. Schäfer et al.
  • 1Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland
  • 2CSC – IT Center for Science Ltd., Espoo, Finland
  • 3College of Global Change and Earth System Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China
  • 4Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  • 5Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l'Environment (LGGE), UMR5183, UJF-Grenoble 1, CNRS, Grenoble, France
  • 6Department of Geosciences and Geography, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • 7Department of Earth Sciences, Air, Water and Landscape science, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
  • 8Gamma Remote Sensing and Consulting AG, Gümligen, Switzerland
  • *now at: Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

Abstract. The dynamics of Vestfonna ice cap (Svalbard) are dominated by fast-flowing outlet glaciers. Its mass balance is poorly known and affected dynamically by these fast-flowing outlet glaciers. Hence, it is a challenging target for ice flow modeling. Precise knowledge of the basal conditions and implementation of a good sliding law are crucial for the modeling of this ice cap. Here we use the full-Stokes finite element code Elmer/Ice to model the 3-D flow over the whole ice cap. We use a Robin inverse method to infer the basal friction from the surface velocities observed in 1995. Our results illustrate the importance of the basal friction parameter in reproducing observed velocity fields. We also show the importance of having variable basal friction as given by the inverse method to reproduce the velocity fields of each outlet glacier – a simple parametrization of basal friction cannot give realistic velocities in a forward model. We study the robustness and sensitivity of this method with respect to different parameters (mesh characteristics, ice temperature, errors in topographic and velocity data). The uncertainty in the observational parameters and input data proved to be sufficiently small as not to adversely affect the fidelity of the model.