Increased melting on glaciers and ice sheets and rising sea level are often mentioned as important aspects of the anticipated greenhouse warming of the earth's atmosphere. This paper deals with the sensitivity of Greenland's ice mass budget and presents a tentative projection of the Greenland component of future sea level rise for the next few hundred years. To do this, the ‘Villach II temperature scenario’ is prescribed,output from a comprehensive mass balance model is used to drive a high-resolution 3-D thermomechanic model of the ice sheet.
The mass balance model consists of two parts: the accumulation part is based on presently observed values and is forced by changes in mean anr tempeerature. The ablation model is based on the degree-day method and accounts for daily and annual temperature cycle, a different degree-day factor for ice and snow melting and superimposed ice formation. Under present-day climatic conditions, the following total mass balance results (in ice equivalent per years): 599.3 × 109 m3 of accumulation, of runoff assuming a balanced budget, 317.6 × 109m3 of iceberg calving. A 1K uniform warming is then calculated to increase the runoff by 119.5 × 109 m3. Since accumulation also increases by 32 × 109 m3, this leads to reduction of the total mass balance by 887.5 × 109 m3 of ice, corresponding to a sea level rise of 0.22 mm/yr. For temperature increase larger than 2.7 K, runoff, exceeds accumulation, and if ice sheet dynamics were to remain unchanged, this would add an extra amount of 0.8 mmyr to the worl's oceans.
Imposing the Villach II scenario (warming up to 4.23 K) and accumulating mass balance changes forward in time (static response) would then result in a global sea level rise of 7.1 cm by 2100 AD, but this figure may go up to as much as 40 cm per century in case the warming is doubled. In a subsequent dynamic model involving the ice flow, the ice sheet is found to produce a counteracting effect by dynamically producing steeper slopes at the margin, thereby reducing the area over which runoff can take place. This effect is particularly apparent in the northeastern part of the ice sheet, and is also more pronounced for the smaller temperature perturbations. Nevertheless, all these experiments certainly highlight the vulnerability of the Greenland ice sheet with respect to a climatic warming.