Climate response to the meltwater runoff from Greenland ice sheet: evolving sensitivity to discharging locations

Yonggang Liu, Robert Hallberg, Olga Sergienko, Bonnie L. Samuels, Matthew Harrison, Michael Oppenheimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) might have lost a large amount of its volume during the last interglacial and may do so again in the future due to climate warming. In this study, we test whether the climate response to the glacial meltwater is sensitive to its discharging location. Two fully coupled atmosphere–ocean general circulation models, CM2G and CM2M, which have completely different ocean components are employed to do the test. In each experiment, a prescribed freshwater flux of 0.1 Sv is discharged from one of the four locations around Greenland—Petermann, 79 North, Jacobshavn and Helheim glaciers. The results from both models show that the AMOC weakens more when the freshwater is discharged from the northern GIS (Petermann and 79 North) than when it is discharged from the southern GIS (Jacobshavn and Helheim), by 15% (CM2G) and 31% (CM2M) averaged over model year 50–300 (CM2G) and 70–300 (CM2M), respectively. This is due to easier access of the freshwater from northern GIS to the deepwater formation site in the Nordic Seas. In the long term (> 300 year), however, the AMOC change is nearly the same for freshwater discharged from any location of the GIS. The East Greenland current accelerates with time and eventually becomes significantly faster when the freshwater is discharged from the north than from the south. Therefore, freshwater from the north is transported efficiently towards the south first and then circulates back to the Nordic Seas, making its impact to the deepwater formation there similar to the freshwater discharged from the south. The results indicate that the details of the location of meltwater discharge matter if the short-term (< 300 years) climate response is concerned, but may not be critical if the long-term (> 300 years) climate response is focused upon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1733-1751
Number of pages19
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • Atlantic meridional ocean circulation (AMOC)
  • Climate change
  • Freshwater forcing
  • Greenland ice sheet
  • Hosing experiment


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