Ice/Bedrock Feedbacks as a Principle Contributor to Glacial-Interglacial Oscillations

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Joy Kimmel, Gordon College, Wenham, MA, United States, Kristen Lee, Weber State University, Ogden, UT, United States and Craig H Jackson, Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, OH, United States
Since the mid-Pleistocene, the oscillation between glacial and interglacial climate states occurs with a period of approximately 100 kyr. Each cycle is comprised of a slow glaciation with a subsequent rapid deglaciation. While the solar forcing is clearly an important driver for these transitions, the power spectrum of the solar forcing is quite different from the subsequent climate response and, in general, does not have a noticeable correlation with global ice volume. Instead, previous studies have shown that internal climate processes and their interactions (e.g., CO2, water vapor, isostatic bed response) play a significant role in producing these global climate cycles. The rapid retreat of large ice sheets at the start of an interglacial is often attributed to the interaction between surface and atmospheric processes. While calving is thought to amplify this retreat, it is not typically considered a principle driver of the ice sheet response.

Our study investigates the potential for ice/bedrock feedbacks to be a principle contributor in shaping the glacial-interglacial climate oscillation -- particularly the rapid deglaciation that precedes an interglacial. The ice sheet model we develop includes a piecewise linear ice/bedrock feedback while atmospheric and surface processes are taken to be as simple as possible. Due to the long timescale of the bedrock response and the rapid mass loss due to calving, the model ice sheet exhibits rapid deglaciation from a stable maximum when it retreats through an overdeepening. However, ice sheet advance is also shown to be as rapid unless a more complex bedrock response is considered. In particular, we show that a forebulge created by the displacement of the mantle adds a new stable branch to the volume/equilibrium line bifurcation diagram that results in slower growth of the ice sheet during glaciation.