Uncertainty in East Antarctic firn thickness constrained using a model ensemble approach

V. Verjans*, A. A. Leeson, M. McMillan, C. M. Stevens, J. M. van Wessem, W. J. van de Berg, M. R. van den Broeke, C. Kittel, C. Amory, X. Fettweis, N. Hansen, F. Boberg, R. Mottram

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Mass balance assessments of the East Antarctic ice sheet (EAIS) are highly sensitive to changes in firn thickness, causing substantial disagreement in estimates of its contribution to sea‐level. To better constrain the uncertainty in recent firn thickness changes, we develop an ensemble of 54 model scenarios of firn evolution between 1992‐2017. Using statistical emulation of firn‐densification models, we quantify the impact of firn compaction formulation, differing climatic forcing, and surface snow density on firn thickness evolution. At basin scales, the ensemble uncertainty in firn thickness change ranges between 0.2–1.0 cm yr‐1 (15–300% relative uncertainty), with the choice of climate forcing having the largest influence on the spread. Our results show the regions of the ice sheet where unexplained discrepancies exist between observed elevation changes and an extensive set of modelled firn thickness changes estimates, marking an important step towards more accurately constraining ice sheet mass balance.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020GL092060
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number7
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.


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