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Publication Date
13 June 2018

An Overview of Interactions and Feedbacks Between Ice Sheets and the Earth System

Tight coupling between ice sheets and the Earth system of critical importance for sea level projections.
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Schematic of ice-sheet/Earth system interactions and feedbacks.

Ice sheet change and associated sea level rise are strongly linked to ice-sheet/Earth system interactions.  We review these interactions and the feedbacks they generate and summarize future research directions.


Sea level rise is a fundamental risk to coastal populations and infrastructure.  Better understanding of sea level changes resulting from ice sheet mass change will have a direct impact on improving coastal resilience.


Sea level rise from ice sheets depends closely on interactions between ice sheets and the surrounding Earth system. These interactions determine how forcings to the climate system (such as from anthropogenic climate influences) translate to ice sheet change, which in turn impact the surrounding environment. This set of two-way interactions between ice sheets and the Earth system forms the basis for important, yet poorly understood feedback loops. This review article describes the current state of knowledge of ice sheet/Earth system interactions and feedbacks and describes promising observational techniques for better understanding of their behavior. It also highlights challenges and opportunities in modeling these interactions and feedbacks using coupled ice sheet/Earth system models, which will ultimately be used to predict future sea level rise caused by ice sheet loss.

Point of Contact
Jeremy Fyke
Associated Engineering Group of Companies
Funding Program Area(s)