The firn meltwater Retention Model Intercomparison Project (RetMIP):evaluation of nine firn models at four weather station sites on the Greenland ice sheet

Vandecrux, Baptiste and Mottram, Ruth and Langen, Peter L. and Fausto, Robert S. and Olesen, Martin and Stevens, C. Max and Verjans, Vincent and Leeson, Amber and Ligtenberg, Stefan and Munneke, Peter Kuipers and Marchenko, Sergey and Pelt, Ward van and Meyer, Colin R. and Simonsen, Sebastian B. and Heilig, Achim and Samimi, Samira and Marshall, Shawn and Machguth, Horst and MacFerrin, Michael and Niwano, Masashi and Miller, Olivia and Voss, Clifford I. and Box, Jason E. (2020) The firn meltwater Retention Model Intercomparison Project (RetMIP):evaluation of nine firn models at four weather station sites on the Greenland ice sheet. The Cryosphere, 14. pp. 3785-3810.

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Perennial snow, or firn, covers 80 % of the Greenland ice sheet and has the capacity to retain surface meltwater, influencing the ice sheet mass balance and contribution to sea-level rise. Multilayer firn models are traditionally used to simulate firn processes and estimate meltwater retention. We present, intercompare and evaluate outputs from nine firn models at four sites that represent the ice sheet's dry snow, percolation, ice slab and firn aquifer areas. The models are forced by mass and energy fluxes derived from automatic weather stations and compared to firn density, temperature and meltwater percolation depth observations. Models agree relatively well at the dry-snow site while elsewhere their meltwater infiltration schemes lead to marked differences in simulated firn characteristics. Models accounting for deep meltwater percolation overestimate percolation depth and firn temperature at the percolation and ice slab sites but accurately simulate recharge of the firn aquifer. Models using Darcy's law and bucket schemes compare favorably to observed firn temperature and meltwater percolation depth at the percolation site, but only the Darcy models accurately simulate firn temperature and percolation at the ice slab site. Despite good performance at certain locations, no single model currently simulates meltwater infiltration adequately at all sites. The model spread in estimated meltwater retention and runoff increases with increasing meltwater input. The highest runoff was calculated at the KAN_U site in 2012, when average total runoff across models (±2σ) was 353±610 mm w.e. (water equivalent), about 27±48 % of the surface meltwater input. We identify potential causes for the model spread and the mismatch with observations and provide recommendations for future model development and firn investigation.

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Journal Article
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The Cryosphere
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07 Jan 2021 11:45
Last Modified:
16 Sep 2023 02:15