14 August 2014

The Pattern of Anthropogenic Signal Emergence in Greenland Ice Sheet Surface Mass Balance

Summary

Surface mass balance (SMB) trends influence observed Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) mass loss, but the component of these trends related to anthropogenic forcing is unclear. Here we study the simulated spatial pattern of emergence of an anthropogenically derived GrIS SMB signal between 1850 and 2100 using the Community Earth System Model. We find emergence timing heterogeneity, with a bimodal structure reflecting interior snowfall increases against a background of low SMB variability, and peripheral surface melting increases against a backdrop of high SMB variability. We also find a nonemerging intermediate region. We conclude that (1) a bimodal pattern of GrIS SMB change will unambiguously reflect the impact of anthropogenic forcing; (2) present-day peripheral and interior SMB trends likely have an underlying anthropogenically forced component; (3) local emergence occurs well before emergence of a spatially integrated signal; and (4) the GrIS summit region may be an ideal location for monitoring regional/global climate change.

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