EGU22-11503, updated on 28 Mar 2022
EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

De-tuning a coupled Climate Ice Sheet Model to simulate the North American Ice Sheet at the Last Glacial Maximum 

Lauren Gregoire1, Niall Gandy2, Lachlan Astfalck1, Ruza Ivanovic1, Sam Sherriff-Tadano1, Robin Smith3, and Daniel Williamson4
Lauren Gregoire et al.
  • 1School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom (
  • 2Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, United Kingdom
  • 3University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom
  • 4University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom

Coupled climate-ice sheet models are crucial to evaluating climate-ice feedbacks' role in future ice sheet evolution. Such models are calibrated to reproduce modern-day ice sheets, but current observations alone are insufficient to constrain the strength of climate-ice feedbacks. The extent of the Northern Hemisphere ice sheets during the last glacial maximum, ~20,000 years ago, is well known and could provide a benchmark for calibrating coupled climate-ice sheet models. We test this with the FAMOUS-ice coupled Climate-Ice Sheet model (Smith et al., 2020), a fast GCM coupled to the Glimmer ice sheet model. We ran Last Glacial Maximum simulations using FAMOUS-ice with interactive North American Ice Sheet, following the PMIP4 protocol (Kageyama et al., 2018). We find that the standard model setup, calibrated to produce a good present-day Greenland (Smith et al., 2020), produced a collapsed North American ice sheet at the Last Glacial Maximum. We ran ensembles of hundreds of simulations to explore the influence of uncertain ice sheet, albedo, atmospheric, and oceanic parameters on the ice sheet extent. The North American continent deglaciated rapidly in most of our simulations, leaving only a handful of useful simulations out of 280. We thus developed a method to efficiently identify regions of the parameter space that can produce a reasonable ice-sheet extent. This involved emulating the equilibrium ice volume and area as a function of the surface mass balance at the start of our simulations. We then ran three waves of short simulations for 20-50 years to identify parameter values and surface mass balance conditions potentially suitable to grow a realistic ice sheet. This enabled us to find ~160 simulations with good ice extent.

Through analysis of these simulations, we find that albedo parameters determine the majority of uncertainty when simulating the Last Glacial Maximum North American Ice Sheets. The differences in cloud cover over the ablation zones of the North American and Greenland ice sheet explains why the ice sheets have different sensitivities to surface mass balance parameters. Based on our work, we propose that the Last Glacial Maximum can provide an “out-of-sample” target to avoid over calibrating coupled climate-ice sheet models to the present day.


Kageyama, M. et al. The PMIP4 contribution to CMIP6 – Part 4: Scientific objectives and experimental design of the PMIP4-CMIP6 Last Glacial Maximum experiments and PMIP4 sensitivity experiments. Geosci. Model Dev. 10, 4035–4055 (2017).

Smith, R. S., George, S., and Gregory, J. M.: FAMOUS version xotzt (FAMOUS-ice): a general circulation model (GCM) capable of energy- and water-conserving coupling to an ice sheet model, Geosci. Model Dev., 14, 5769–5787,, 2021.


How to cite: Gregoire, L., Gandy, N., Astfalck, L., Ivanovic, R., Sherriff-Tadano, S., Smith, R., and Williamson, D.: De-tuning a coupled Climate Ice Sheet Model to simulate the North American Ice Sheet at the Last Glacial Maximum , EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-11503,, 2022.