Greenland climate simulations show high Eemian surface melt which could explain reduced total air content in ice cores

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This study presents simulations of Greenland surface melt for the Eemian interglacial period (similar to 130 000 to 115 000 years ago) derived from regional climate simulations with a coupled surface energy balance model. Surface melt is of high relevance due to its potential effect on ice core observations, e.g., lowering the preserved total air content (TAC) used to infer past surface elevation. An investigation of surface melt is particularly interesting for warm periods with high surface melt, such as the Eemian interglacial period. Furthermore, Eemian ice is the deepest and most compressed ice preserved on Greenland, resulting in our inability to identify melt layers visually. Therefore, simulating Eemian melt rates and associated melt layers is beneficial to improve the reconstruction of past surface elevation. Estimated TAC, based on simulated melt during the Eemian, could explain the lower TAC observations. The simulations show Eemian surface melt at all deep Greenland ice core locations and an average of up to similar to 30 melt days per year at Dye-3, corresponding to more than 600 mm water equivalent (w.e.) of annual melt. For higher ice sheet locations, between 60 and 150 mmw.e.yr(-1) on average are simulated. At the summit of Greenland, this yields a refreezing ratio of more than 25 % of the annual accumulation. As a consequence, high melt rates during warm periods should be considered when interpreting Greenland TAC fluctuations as surface elevation changes. In addition to estimating the influence of melt on past TAC in ice cores, the simulated surface melt could potentially be used to identify coring locations where Greenland ice is best preserved.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClimate of the Past
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)317-330
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2021

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