May 1, 1999-April 30, 2003
Level of Access
This is a collaborative project with the University of Maine and Ohio State University. The Principal Investigators will model the late glacial Laurentide Ice Sheet from near steady-state equilibrium at - 25,000 BP (years before present), through reversible stadial/interstadial transitions associated with Laurentide iceberg outbursts (Heinrich events 2 and 1), and across the threshold of irreversible Laurentide collapse after the last iceberg outburst at - 1 1,000 BP (Heinrich event 0). The goals are to determine if ice-sheet changes could have triggered climate changes by abrupt ice sheet change and to investigate the structure of these changes. The Principal Investigators will isolate mechanisms of abrupt change over hundreds of years in the ice sheet that are large enough to trigger climate changes captured as time "snapshots" by coupled global and regional atmospheric climate models. Specific modeling tasks are: 1) to provide the climate settings surrounding the Laurentide Ice Sheet at "snapshots" of time during this late glacial period. This includes the wind field over the ice sheet, proglacial lakes along the border, the fine-resolution mesoscale climate of North America, and global climate; 2) to provide the basal boundary conditions that, together with the internal flow and temperature fields, are used to calculate the basal mass balance. This includes the pattern of basal temperatures, melting and freezing rates, and the associated subglacial hydrology; 3) to model the Laurentide Ice Sheet basal thermal, hydrological, and mechanical conditions within the imposed and basal boundary constraints for the chosen timeframe; and 4) to determine whether modeling will isolate mechanisms of abrupt change that allow rapid advance and retreat of Laurentide ice, with areal, elevation, and volume changes large enough to trigger climate changes that are captured by our "snapshots" of regional and global climate.
This project has significance for educational outreach and the possible behavior of present-day ice sheets. The education outreach program will be interactive with high school students. They will be able to manipulate the major variables so that they can view three-dimensional computer simulations of how the Laurentide Ice Sheet responds to each variable. This program will be disseminated on the world-wide web. If fluctuations in the Laurentide Ice Sheet triggered climate changes, then the possibility exists that present-day ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica could trigger similar climate changes, with major social, economic, and political consequences. A way to assess this possibility is to understand the internal instability mechanisms that could have caused abrupt changes in Laurentide ice extent, and to tie them firmly to known late glacial climate changes.
Hughes, Terence J.; Fastook, James L.; Bromwich, David; and Toracinta, E. Richard, "Collaborative Research: Did the Laurentine Ice Sheet Control Abrupt Climate Change?" (2003). University of Maine Office of Research and Sponsored Programs: Grant Reports. 106.