A new vertically integrated MOno-Layer Higher-Order (MOLHO) ice flow model

Thiago Dias Dos Santos, Mathieu Morlighem, Douglas Brinkerhoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Numerical simulations of ice sheets rely on the momentum balance to determine how ice velocities change as the geometry of the system evolves. Ice is generally assumed to follow a Stokes flow with a nonlinear viscosity. Several approximations have been proposed in order to lower the computational cost of a full-Stokes stress balance. A popular option is the Blatter-Pattyn or higher-order model (HO), which consists of a three-dimensional set of equations that solves the horizontal velocities only. However, it still remains computationally expensive for long transient simulations. Here we present a depth-integrated formulation of the HO model, which can be solved on a two-dimensional mesh in the horizontal plane. We employ a specific polynomial function to describe the vertical variation in the velocity, which allows us to integrate the vertical dimension using a semi-analytic integration. We assess the performance of this MOno-Layer Higher-Order (MOLHO) model to compute ice velocities and simulate grounding line dynamics on standard benchmarks (ISMIP-HOM and MISMIP3D). We compare MOLHO results to the ones obtained with the original three-dimensional HO model. We also compare the time performance of both models in time-dependent runs. Our results show that the ice velocities and grounding line positions obtained with MOLHO are in very good agreement with the ones from HO. In terms of computing time, MOLHO requires less than 10% of the computational time of a typical HO model, for the same simulations. These results suggest that the MOno-Layer Higher-Order formulation provides improved computational time performance and a comparable accuracy compared to the HO formulation, which opens the door to higher-order paleo simulations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-195
Number of pages17
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 20 2022


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