Articles | Volume 9, issue 3
Model description paper
18 Mar 2016
Model description paper |  | 18 Mar 2016

ISSM-SESAW v1.0: mesh-based computation of gravitationally consistent sea-level and geodetic signatures caused by cryosphere and climate driven mass change

Surendra Adhikari, Erik R. Ivins, and Eric Larour

Abstract. A classical Green's function approach for computing gravitationally consistent sea-level variations associated with mass redistribution on the earth's surface employed in contemporary sea-level models naturally suits the spectral methods for numerical evaluation. The capability of these methods to resolve high wave number features such as small glaciers is limited by the need for large numbers of pixels and high-degree (associated Legendre) series truncation. Incorporating a spectral model into (components of) earth system models that generally operate on a mesh system also requires repetitive forward and inverse transforms. In order to overcome these limitations, we present a method that functions efficiently on an unstructured mesh, thus capturing the physics operating at kilometer scale yet capable of simulating geophysical observables that are inherently of global scale with minimal computational cost. The goal of the current version of this model is to provide high-resolution solid-earth, gravitational, sea-level and rotational responses for earth system models operating in the domain of the earth's outer fluid envelope on timescales less than about 1 century when viscous effects can largely be ignored over most of the globe. The model has numerous important geophysical applications. For example, we compute time-varying computations of global geodetic and sea-level signatures associated with recent ice-sheet changes that are derived from space gravimetry observations. We also demonstrate the capability of our model to simultaneously resolve kilometer-scale sources of the earth's time-varying surface mass transport, derived from high-resolution modeling of polar ice sheets, and predict the corresponding local and global geodetic signatures.

Short summary
We present a numerically accurate, computationally efficient, (km-scale) high-resolution model for gravitationally consistent relative sea level that, unlike contemporary state-of-the-art models, operates efficiently on an unstructured mesh. The model is useful for earth system modeling and space geodesy. A straightforward and computationally less burdensome coupling to a dynamical ice-sheet model, for example, allows a refined and realistic simulation of fast-flowing outlet glaciers.