Stochastic marine ice sheet variability

T. E. Mulder*, S. Baars, F. W. Wubs, H. A. Dijkstra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


It is well known that deterministic two-dimensional marine ice sheets can only be stable if the grounding line is positioned at a sufficiently steep, downward sloping bedrock. When bedrock conditions favour instabilities, multiple stable ice sheet profiles may occur. Here, we employ continuation techniques to examine the sensitivity of a two-dimensional marine ice sheet to stochastic noise representing short time scale variability, either in the accumulation rate or in the sea level height. We find that in unique regimes, the position of the grounding line is most sensitive to noise in the accumulation rate and can explain excursions observed in field measurements. In the multiple equilibrium regime, there is a strong asymmetry in transition probabilities between the different ice sheet states, with a strong preference to switch to the branch with a steeper bedrock slope.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)748-777
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2018


  • bifurcation
  • geophysical and geological flows
  • nonlinear dynamical systems


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