Liquid water flow and retention on the Greenland Ice Sheet in the regional climate model HIRHAM5 local and large-scale impacts

Peter L. Langen, Robert S. Fausto, Baptiste Vandecrux, Ruth H. Mottram, Jason E. Box

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftArtikelForskningpeer review

66 Citationer (Scopus)


To improve Greenland Ice Sheet surface mass balance (SMB) simulation, the subsurface scheme of the HIRHAM5 regional climate model was extended to include snow densification, varying hydraulic conductivity, irreducible water saturation and other effects on snow liquid water percolation and retention. Sensitivity experiments to investigate the effects of the additions and the impact of different parameterization choices are presented. Compared with 68 accumulation area ice cores, the simulated mean annual net accumulation bias is −5% (correlation coefficient of 0.90). Modeled SMB in the ablation area compares favorably with 1041 PROMICE observations with regression slope of 0.95–0.97 (depending on model configuration), correlation coefficient of 0.75–0.86 and mean bias −3%. Weighting ablation area SMB biases at low- and high-elevation with the amount of runoff from these areas, we estimate ice sheet-wide mass loss biases in the ablation area at −5 and −7% using observed (MODIS-derived) and internally calculated albedo, respectively. Comparison with observed melt day counts shows that patterns of spatial (correlation ∼0.9) and temporal (correlation coefficient of ∼0.9) variability are realistically represented in the simulations. However, the model tends to underestimate the magnitude of inter-annual variability (regression slope ∼0.7) and overestimate that of spatial variability (slope ∼1.2). In terms of subsurface temperature structure and occurrence of perennial firn aquifers and perched ice layers, the most important model choices are the albedo implementation and irreducible water saturation parameterization. At one percolation area location, for instance, the internally calculated albedo yields too high subsurface temperatures below 5 m, but when using an implementation of irreducible saturation allowing higher values, an ice layer forms in 2011, reducing the deep warm bias in subsequent years. On the other hand, prior to the formation of the ice layer, observed albedos combined with lower irreducible saturation give the smallest bias. Perennial firn aquifers and perched ice layers occur in varying thickness and area for different model parameter choices. While the occurrence of these features has an influence on the local-scale subsurface temperature, snow, ice and water fields, the Greenland-wide runoff and SMB are—in the model’s current climate—dominated by the albedo implementation.

Antal sider18
TidsskriftFrontiers in Earth Science
StatusUdgivet - 12 jan. 2017


  • Programområde 5: Natur og klima


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