Numerical Simulation and Sensitivity Analysis of Subglacial Meltwater Plumes: Implications for Ocean-Glacier Coupling in Rink Isbrae, West Greenland

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Dustin Carroll1, Dave Sutherland2, Emily Shroyer3 and Jonathan D Nash3, (1)University of Oregon - 1299, Eugene, OR, United States, (2)University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, United States, (3)Oregon State Univ, Corvallis, OR, United States
The rate of mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet quadrupled over the last two decades and may be due in part to changes in ocean heat transport to marine-terminating outlet glaciers. Meltwater commonly discharges at the grounding line in these outlet glacier fjords, generating a turbulent upwelling plume that separates from the glacier face when it reaches neutral density. This mechanism is the current paradigm for setting the magnitude of net heat transport in Greenland’s glacial fjords. However, sufficient observations of meltwater plumes are not available to test the buoyancy-driven circulation hypothesis. Here, we use an ocean general circulation model (MITgcm) of the near-glacier field to investigate how plume water properties, terminal height, centerline velocity and volume transport depend on the initial conditions and numerical parameter choices in the model. These results are compared to a hydrodynamic mixing model (CORMIX), typically used in civil engineering applications. Experiments using stratification profiles from the continental shelf quantify the errors associated with using far-field observatons to initialize near-glacier plume models. The plume-scale model results are then integrated with a 3-D fjord-scale model of the Rink Isbrae glacier/fjord system in west Greenland. We find that variability in the near-glacier plume structure can strongly control the resulting fjord-scale circulation. The fjord model is forced with wind and tides to examine how oceanic and atmospheric forcing influence net heat transport to the glacier.