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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 14, issue 10 | Copyright
Clim. Past, 14, 1441-1462, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 18 Oct 2018

Research article | 18 Oct 2018

The role of regional feedbacks in glacial inception on Baffin Island: the interaction of ice flow and meteorology

Leah Birch1, Timothy Cronin2, and Eli Tziperman1 Leah Birch et al.
  • 1School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
  • 2Department of Earth, Atmosphere and Planetary Sciences, MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA

Abstract. Over the past 0.8 million years, 100kyr ice ages have dominated Earth's climate with geological evidence suggesting the last glacial inception began in the mountains of Baffin Island. Currently, state-of-the-art global climate models (GCMs) have difficulty simulating glacial inception, possibly due in part to their coarse horizontal resolution and the neglect of ice flow dynamics in some models. We attempt to address the role of regional feedbacks in the initial inception problem on Baffin Island by asynchronously coupling the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) model, configured as a high-resolution inner domain over Baffin and an outer domain incorporating much of North America, to an ice flow model using the shallow ice approximation. The mass balance is calculated from WRF simulations and used to drive the ice model, which updates the ice extent and elevation, that then serve as inputs to the next WRF run. We drive the regional WRF configuration using atmospheric boundary conditions from 1986 that correspond to a relatively cold summer, and with 115kya insolation. Initially, ice accumulates on mountain glaciers, driving downslope ice flow which expands the size of the ice caps. However, continued iterations of the atmosphere and ice models reveal a stagnation of the ice sheet on Baffin Island, driven by melting due to warmer temperatures at the margins of the ice caps. This warming is caused by changes in the regional circulation that are forced by elevation changes due to the ice growth. A stabilizing feedback between ice elevation and atmospheric circulation thus prevents full inception from occurring.

Publications Copernicus
Short summary
We investigate the regional dynamics at the beginning of the last ice age, using a nested configuration of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model with a simple ice flow model. We find that ice sheet height causes a negative feedback on continued ice growth by interacting with the atmospheric circulation, causing warming on Baffin Island, and inhibiting the initiation of the last ice age. We conclude that processes at larger scales are needed to overcome the regional warming effect.
We investigate the regional dynamics at the beginning of the last ice age, using a nested...