Intercomparison of surface meltwater routing models for the Greenland ice sheet and influence on subglacial effective pressures

Yang, Kang; Sommers, Aleah; Andrews, Lauren C.; Smith, Laurence C.; Lu, Xin; Fettweis, Xavier; Li, Manchun

Each summer, large volumes of surface meltwater drain off the Greenland ice sheet (GrIS) surface through moulins to the bed, impacting subglacial hydrology and ice flow dynamics. Supraglacial surface routing delays may propagate to englacial and subglacial hydrologic systems, requiring accurate assessment to correctly estimate subglacial effective pressures. We compare hourly supraglacial moulin discharge simulations from three surface meltwater routing models – the synthetic unit hydrograph (SUH), the bare-ice component of surface routing and lake filling (SRLF), and the rescaled width function (RWF) – for four internally drained catchments on the southwestern Greenland ice sheet surface. The routing models are forced identically using surface runoff from the Modèle Atmosphérique Régionale regional climate model (RCM). For each catchment, simulated moulin hydrographs are input to the SHAKTI subglacial hydrologic model to simulate diurnally varying subglacial effective-pressure variations in the vicinity of a single moulin. Overall, all three routing models produce more realistic moulin discharges than simply using RCM runoff outputs without surface routing but produce significant differences in peak moulin discharge and time to peak. In particular, the RWF yields later, smaller peak moulin discharges than the SUH or SRLF due to its representation of slow interfluve flow between supraglacial meltwater channels, and it can readily accommodate the seasonal evolution of supraglacial stream and river networks. Differences among the three routing models are reflected in a series of simple idealized subglacial hydrology simulations that yield different diurnal effective-pressure amplitudes; however, the supraglacial hydrologic system acts as short-term storage for surface meltwater, and the temporal mean effective pressure is relatively consistent across routing models.

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Yang, Kang / Sommers, Aleah / Andrews, Lauren C. / et al: Intercomparison of surface meltwater routing models for the Greenland ice sheet and influence on subglacial effective pressures. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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