Ice sheet models – University of Copenhagen

Ice sheet models

Ice sheet models

Ice sheet models are developed to simulate the flow and deformation of ice. In such models, a grid consisting of points throughout the ice sheet at a suitable resolution is chosen. The flow of ice is governed by the stress state of the ice which is different at different locations in the ice sheet. Therefore, this has to be quantified for each point in the grid.

The ice flow is also affected by parameters like temperature, the amount of snow fall, the amount of basal melting, and the orientation of the crystals in the ice. Incorporating all of this in a model and following the development of the Greenland ice sheet at every point in the grid thousands of years back in time through glacial and interglacial periods requires strong computers and long computation times. Such models are used to investigate the previous extent of the Greenland ice sheet and to predict its geometry and size in future climates and thereby estimate the contribution to global sea-level rise from this ice mass.


The present ice cover in Greenland (left) and the modelled ice cover for a climate 5°C warmer than the present (right).

Read more about simple ice flow models