Journal cover Journal topic
Geoscientific Model Development An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Geosci. Model Dev., 6, 2135-2152, 2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Model evaluation paper
19 Dec 2013
Accuracy of the zeroth- and second-order shallow-ice approximation – numerical and theoretical results
J. Ahlkrona1,2, N. Kirchner2,3, and P. Lötstedt1 1Division of Scientific Computing, Department of Information Technology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
2Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
3Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
Abstract. In ice sheet modelling, the shallow-ice approximation (SIA) and second-order shallow-ice approximation (SOSIA) schemes are approaches to approximate the solution of the full Stokes equations governing ice sheet dynamics. This is done by writing the solution to the full Stokes equations as an asymptotic expansion in the aspect ratio ε, i.e. the quotient between a characteristic height and a characteristic length of the ice sheet. SIA retains the zeroth-order terms and SOSIA the zeroth-, first-, and second-order terms in the expansion. Here, we evaluate the order of accuracy of SIA and SOSIA by numerically solving a two-dimensional model problem for different values of ε, and comparing the solutions with afinite element solution to the full Stokes equations obtained from Elmer/Ice. The SIA and SOSIA solutions are also derived analytically for the model problem. For decreasing ε, the computed errors in SIA and SOSIA decrease, but not always in the expected way. Moreover, they depend critically on a parameter introduced to avoid singularities in Glen's flow law in the ice model. This is because the assumptions behind the SIA and SOSIA neglect a thick, high-viscosity boundary layer near the ice surface. The sensitivity to the parameter is explained by the analytical solutions. As a verification of the comparison technique, the SIA and SOSIA solutions for a fluid with Newtonian rheology are compared to the solutions by Elmer/Ice, with results agreeing very well with theory.

Citation: Ahlkrona, J., Kirchner, N., and Lötstedt, P.: Accuracy of the zeroth- and second-order shallow-ice approximation – numerical and theoretical results, Geosci. Model Dev., 6, 2135-2152,, 2013.
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