Adaptive mesh refinement versus subgrid friction interpolation in simulations of Antarctic ice dynamics

Stephen Cornford, Daniel Martin, Victoria Lee, Tony Payne, Esmond Ng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
250 Downloads (Pure)


At least in conventional hydrostatic ice-sheet models, the numerical error associated with grounding line dynamics can be reduced by modifications to the discretization scheme. These involve altering the integration formulae for the basal traction and/or driving stress close to the grounding line and exhibit lower – if still first-order – error in the MISMIP3d experiments. MISMIP3d may not represent the variety of real ice streams, in that it lacks strong lateral stresses, and imposes a large basal traction at the grounding line. We study resolution sensitivity in the context of extreme forcing simulations of the entire Antarctic ice sheet, using the BISICLES adaptive mesh ice-sheet model with two schemes: the original treatment, and a scheme, which modifies the discretization of the basal traction. The second scheme does indeed improve accuracy – by around a factor of two – for a given mesh spacing, but $\lesssim 1$ km resolution is still necessary. For example, in coarser resolution simulations Thwaites Glacier retreats so slowly that other ice streams divert its trunk. In contrast, with $\lesssim 1$ km meshes, the same glacier retreats far more quickly and triggers the final phase of West Antarctic collapse a century before any such diversion can take place.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Glaciology
Issue number73
Early online date13 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016

Bibliographical note

accepted for publication on 12 Jan 2016

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