Description of the ELMER-model

Ice-flow modeling with Elmer/ice

Ice-sheets, ice-caps and glaciers are an important dynamic part of the Earth's climate system on the time scale of decades and beyond. Their complete melt would lead to a global sea-level rise of approximatively 70meters. In the background of the ongoing global warming, research of of these ice-bodies is of great relevance.

We conduct numerical simulations mainly in order to predict their future change. Smaller past simulations are also conducted for model validation purposes. Within these simulations our focus is on the influence of the climate, i.e. the parametrization of the "climate mass balanc" (loss and gain of snow/ice/water through melt or snowfall and similar processes) and its coupling to our ice-flow model describing the ice-flow through gravity. A second research axis is the understanding of basal processes which can lead to important changes in the flow regimes of glaciers and hence can have impacts on the short-term ice-discharge in the ocean independently from surface melt. Here our main focus is again connected to climate and climate change: the role of temperature and heat sources in such processes.

We use the ice-flow model Elmer/Ice. Elmer is an open-source, parallel, Finite Element code, mainly developed by the CSC in Finland. Elmer/Ice is based on Elmer including more developments related to glaciological problems. Elmer/Ice solves full-Stokes equations for various ice rheologies and allows to model thermo-mechanically coupled ice flow. Solving the full-Stokes equations and not only a simplified equation set, as done for example in the often used Shallow-Ice-Approximation (SIA), allows to model smaller glaciers or ice-caps as well as features like ice-streams with the necessary model precision.

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