Ice-age simulations with a calving ice-sheet model

David Pollard

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26 Scopus citations


Variations of ice-sheet volume during the Quaternary ice ages are simulated using a simple ice-sheet model for the Northern Hemisphere. The basic model predicts ice thickness and bedrock deformation in a north-south cross section, with a prescribed snow-budget distribution shifted uniformly in space to represent the orbital perturbations. An ice calving parameterization crudely representing proglacial lakes or marine incursions can attack the ice whenever the tip drops below sea level. The model produces a large ∼ 100,000-yr response in fair agreement (correlation coefficient up to 0.8) with the δ18O deep-sea core records. To increase confidence in the results, several of the more uncertain model components are extended or replaced, using an alternative treatment of bedrock deformation, a more realistic ice-shelf model of ice calving, and a generalized parameterization for such features as the North Atlantic deglacial meltwater layer. Much the same ice-age simulations and agreement with the δ18O records, as with the original model, are still obtained. The model is run with different types of forcing to identify which aspect of the orbital forcing controls the phase of the 100,000-yr cycles. First, the model is shown to give a ∼ 100,000-yr response to nearly any kind of higher-frequency forcing. Although over the last 2-million yrs the model phase is mainly controlled by the precessional modulation due to eccentricity, over just the last 500,000 yr the observed phase can also be simulated with eccentricity held constant. A definite conclusion on the phase control of the real 100,000-yr cycles is prevented by uncertainty in the deep-sea core time scales before ∼600,000 yr B.P. The model is adapted to represent West Antarctica, and yields unforced internal oscillations with periods of about 50,000 yr.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-48
Number of pages19
JournalQuaternary Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1983

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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