Articles | Volume 7, issue 4
The Cryosphere, 7, 1161–1184, 2013
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-7-1161-2013
The Cryosphere, 7, 1161–1184, 2013
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-7-1161-2013

Research article 25 Jul 2013

Research article | 25 Jul 2013

Data assimilation and prognostic whole ice sheet modelling with the variationally derived, higher order, open source, and fully parallel ice sheet model VarGlaS

D. J. Brinkerhoff and J. V. Johnson D. J. Brinkerhoff and J. V. Johnson
  • University of Montana, Missoula, MT, USA

Abstract. We introduce a novel, higher order, finite element ice sheet model called VarGlaS (Variational Glacier Simulator), which is built on the finite element framework FEniCS. Contrary to standard procedure in ice sheet modelling, VarGlaS formulates ice sheet motion as the minimization of an energy functional, conferring advantages such as a consistent platform for making numerical approximations, a coherent relationship between motion and heat generation, and implicit boundary treatment. VarGlaS also solves the equations of enthalpy rather than temperature, avoiding the solution of a contact problem. Rather than include a lengthy model spin-up procedure, VarGlaS possesses an automated framework for model inversion. These capabilities are brought to bear on several benchmark problems in ice sheet modelling, as well as a 500 yr simulation of the Greenland ice sheet at high resolution. VarGlaS performs well in benchmarking experiments and, given a constant climate and a 100 yr relaxation period, predicts a mass evolution of the Greenland ice sheet that matches present-day observations of mass loss. VarGlaS predicts a thinning in the interior and thickening of the margins of the ice sheet.

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