The Antarctic contribution to 21st-century sea-level rise predicted by the UK Earth System Model with an interactive ice sheet

The Antarctic Ice Sheet will play a crucial role in the evolution of global mean sea level as the climate warms. An interactively coupled climate and ice sheet model is needed to understand the impacts of ice–climate feedbacks during this evolution. Here we use a two-way coupling between the UK Earth System Model and the BISICLES (Berkeley Ice Sheet Initiative for Climate at Extreme Scales) dynamic ice sheet model to investigate Antarctic ice–climate interactions under two climate change scenarios. We perform ensembles of SSP1–1.9 and SSP5–8.5 (Shared Socioeconomic Pathway) scenario simulations to 2100, which we believe are the first such simulations with a climate model that include two-way coupling of atmosphere and ocean models to dynamic models of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. We focus our analysis on the latter. In SSP1–1.9 simulations, ice shelf basal melting and grounded ice mass loss from the Antarctic Ice Sheet are generally lower than present rates during the entire simulation period. In contrast, the responses to SSP5–8.5 forcing are strong. By the end of the 21st century, these simulations feature order-of-magnitude increases in basal melting of the Ross and Filchner–Ronne ice shelves, caused by intrusions of masses of warm ocean water. Due to the slow response of ice sheet drawdown, this strong melting does not cause a substantial increase in ice discharge during the simulations. The surface mass balance in SSP5–8.5 simulations shows a pattern of strong decrease on ice shelves, caused by increased melting, and strong increase on grounded ice, caused by increased snowfall. Despite strong surface and basal melting of the ice shelves, increased snowfall dominates the mass budget of the grounded ice, leading to an ensemble mean Antarctic contribution to global mean sea level of a fall of 22 mm by 2100 in the SSP5–8.5 scenario. We hypothesise that this signal would revert to sea-level rise on longer timescales, caused by the ice sheet dynamic response to ice shelf thinning. These results demonstrate the need for fully coupled ice–climate models in reducing the substantial uncertainty in sea-level rise from the Antarctic Ice Sheet.


Publication status:
Authors: Siahaan, Antony, Smith, Robin S., Holland, Paul R., Jenkins, Adrian ORCIDORCID record for Adrian Jenkins, Gregory, Jonathan M., Lee, Victoria, Mathiot, Pierre, Payne, Antony J.​​​​​​​, Ridley, Jeff K.​​​​​​​, Jones, Colin G.

On this site: Adrian Jenkins, Antony Siahaan
7 October, 2022
The Cryosphere / 16
34pp / 4053-4086
Link to published article: