Articles | Volume 8, issue 2
Research article
24 Apr 2014
Research article |  | 24 Apr 2014

Adjoint accuracy for the full Stokes ice flow model: limits to the transmission of basal friction variability to the surface

N. Martin and J. Monnier

Abstract. This work focuses on the numerical assessment of the accuracy of an adjoint-based gradient in the perspective of variational data assimilation and parameter identification in glaciology. Using noisy synthetic data, we quantify the ability to identify the friction coefficient for such methods with a non-linear friction law. The exact adjoint problem is solved, based on second-order numerical schemes, and a comparison with the so-called "self-adjoint" approximation, neglecting the viscosity dependence on the velocity (leading to an incorrect gradient), common in glaciology, is carried out. For data with a noise of 1%, a lower bound of identifiable wavelengths of 10 ice thicknesses in the friction coefficient is established, when using the exact adjoint method, while the "self-adjoint" method is limited, even for lower noise, to a minimum of 20 ice thickness wavelengths. The second-order exact gradient method therefore provides robustness and reliability for the parameter identification process. In another respect, the derivation of the adjoint model using algorithmic differentiation leads to the formulation of a generalization of the "self-adjoint" approximation towards an incomplete adjoint method, adjustable in precision and computational burden.