Articles | Volume 9, issue 4
Research article
02 Aug 2013
Research article |  | 02 Aug 2013

Coupled regional climate–ice-sheet simulation shows limited Greenland ice loss during the Eemian

M. M. Helsen, W. J. van de Berg, R. S. W. van de Wal, M. R. van den Broeke, and J. Oerlemans

Abstract. During the last interglacial period (Eemian, 130–115 kyr BP) eustatic global sea level likely peaked at > 6 m above the present-day level, but estimates of the contribution of the Greenland Ice Sheet vary widely. Here we use an asynchronously two-way-coupled regional climate–ice-sheet model, which includes physically realistic feedbacks between the changing ice sheet topography and climate forcing. Our simulation results in a contribution from the Greenland Ice Sheet to the Eemian sea level highstand between 1.2 and 3.5 m, with a most likely value of 2.1 m. Simulated Eemian ice loss in Greenland is dominated by the rapid retreat of the southwestern margin; two-thirds of the ice loss occurred south of 70° N. The southern dome survived the Eemian and remained connected to the central dome. Large-scale ice sheet retreat is prevented in areas with high accumulation. Our results broadly agree with ice-core-inferred elevation changes and marine records, but it does not match with the ice-core-derived temperature record from northern Greenland. During maximum Eemian summertime insolation, Greenland mass loss contributed ~ 0.5 m kyr−1 to sea level rise, 24% of the reconstructed total rate of sea level rise. Next to that, a difference of > 3 m remains between our maximum estimate of the Greenland contribution and the reconstructed minimum value of the global eustatic Eemian highstand. Hence, the Antarctic Ice Sheet must also have contributed significantly to this sea level highstand.