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WIREs Clim Change
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Ice sheets as interactive components of Earth System Models: progress and challenges

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One of the major impacts of anthropogenic climate change is sea level rise. Reliable estimates of the contribution of ice sheets to future sea level rise are important to policy makers and the civil society. In addition to sea level rise, ice sheet changes can affect the global climate through modified freshwater fluxes in the areas of deep‐water convection. Also, ice sheets modify local and large‐scale climate through changes in surface albedo and in their own topography. In the past, ice sheets have played a fundamental role in shaping climate and climate transitions. Despite their strong interactions with the climate system, they are not yet standard components of climate models. First attempts have been made in this direction, and it is foreseeable that in several years ice sheets will be included as interactive components of most models. The main challenges for this coupling are related to spatial and temporal resolution, ice sheet initialization, model climate biases, the need for explicit representation of snow/ice surface physics (e.g., albedo evolution, surface melt, refreezing, compaction), and coupling to the ocean component. This article reviews the main processes contributing to the ice sheet mass budget, the suite of ice sheet–climate interactions, and the requirements for modelling them in a coupled system. Focus is given to four major subjects: surface mass balance, ice sheet flow, ocean–ice sheet interaction, and challenges in coupling ice sheet models to climate models.

Ocean processes causing melt of ice shelves and outlet glaciers as described in Ref. . Antarctic ice shelves are melted by (1) high‐salinity shelf water which is formed during winter sea‐ice growth and which has temperatures above the local pressure melting point after sinking to the depths of the grounding lines; (2) seasonally warmed near‐surface water that is transported from beneath the ice front by tidal mixing and/or (3) subsurface warm water (circumpolar deep water) originating from the Antarctic circumpolar current (ACC). Greenland outlet glaciers are melted by sub‐surface warm waters (Irminger or Atlantic water) originating from the North Atlantic Current (NAC). Where melting occurs, the buoyancy of the resulting meltwater plume drives further melt, which may be reinforced by subglacial meltwater. (Reprinted with permission from AAAS through RightsLink)
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