Work Package 8/9 - Coupled dynamical ice sheets

Ice sheet mass loss is the largest source of uncertainty in predictions of future sea level rise, but including ice sheets in full Earth System models is extremely challenging – almost all CMIP6 ESMs simply treat ice sheets as static features. In this work package (WP) we will develop technical methods for coupling dynamic ice sheet models into ESMs, and conduct and evaluate simulations of the global climate that include their influences and predict future sea level rise.

WP8/9 will allow new ESM capabilities by 1) coupling physical processes at the ice sheet surface with the atmosphere; 2) coupling physical processes at floating ice shelves with the ocean; 3) allowing the shape and size of the ice sheets in the climate models to change. We will then evaluate how realistically they behave, which means setting up the different parts of our new coupled models so they work well together. Finally, we will run simulations of different possible future climates with these models to investigate the implications for sea level rise and the interactions between climate and ice sheets.

Intitutions involved: Because interactive ice coupling is a very new feature of Earth System models, only groups who have already completed a significant amount of preliminary work are included in this work package. L’Institut des Géosciences de l’Environnement in Grenoble will build ice coupling into the IPSL climate model, and the University of Reading, UK will improve the ice sheet coupling that already exists within the UK Earth System model.

WP8/9 Leaders

Robin Smith

Robin Smith

Senior Research Scientist, NCAS-UR - Reading (UK)​
I am a Senior Research Scientist in the National Center for Atmospheric Science (University of Reading) working in the Meteorology department at the University of Reading in the UK. I am currently part of the core team of scientists and developers working with UKESM, the state-of-the-art UK Earth System model. I lead the work to couple interactive ice sheets into UKESM, using the BISICLES adaptive mesh ice model. I'm interested in pretty much anything to do with large-scale climate and how different parts of the Earth System interact, especially with land ice and sea level, and have worked on studies of climate from millions of years in the past to thousands of years in the future.

In ESM2025, I am co-leading the work to improve the interactive coupling between ice sheets and the rest of the climate system in our Earth System models. This involves working on the ways in which physical processes are represented in the ESMs as well as technical aspects of how the different components communicate.

Nicolas Jourdain

Nicolas Jourdain

CNRS research scientist, IGE - Grenoble (France)​
I am currently studying the interactions between the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets and the climate system at IGE, Grenoble, France. My main aim is to reduce uncertainty on sea level projections. Previously, I worked on tropical cyclones, the Indo-Pacific climate, and ocean-atmosphere interactions, at IRD, Nouméa, New Caledonia, and at CCRC-UNSW, Sydney, Australia. A large part of my work is based on numerical models designed to simulate some physical constituents of the climate system.

In ESM2025, my role is to co-lead WPs8-9 especially the work aiming to have interactive ice sheets in the next generation of Earth System Models. I will coordinate the developments related to the IPSL-CM model and will discuss common experimental designs with UKESM.

WP10/11 Milestones & Deliverables

MS8.1 – 30 November 2021

Agreed protocol and scenario for XCA2 demonstration simulations

MS8.2 – 30 November 2022

Forcing data and emissions compiled and harmonised for use in XCA2 demonstration simulations

D8.1 – 31 May 2023

Report on the preliminary technical implementation of the coupling with dynamical ice sheet models in UKESM and IPSL-ESM

MS9.1 – 30 November 2023

Preliminary assessment of pre-industrial state/stability

MS9.2 – 30 November 2024

Demonstration runs with coupled ESMs delivery data to XCA2

D9.1  – 31 May 2025

Report on effect of interactive ice sheets in historical simulations and in projections

D9.2  – 31 May 2025

Report on ice-sheet contributions to global mean SLR and climate feedbacks on multiple time-scales