Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation Model Intercomparison Project (AMOCMIP)

Modeling Effects of Greenland Ice Sheet Melting on AMOC Variability and Predictability


Recent observations reveal accelerated melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS). Projections of future effects suggest continuing ice loss at increasing rates for business-as-usual anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. Additional meltwater fluxes into the surrounding North Atlantic ocean will increase the buoyancy of surface waters, which may reduce their rates of convection, subduction and sinking to the deep ocean and hence slow down the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). Detailed estimates of the GrIS mass balance show that it is influenced by North Atlantic climate variability, suggesting a possible feedback between the GrIS and the AMOC. However, most comprehensive climate models currently do not include interactive ice sheets. Thus projections of future climate change performed with these models (including CMIP5) do not consider impacts of GrIS melting on AMOC variability although it is well known that the AMOC is sensitive to freshwater fluxes to the North Atlantic. The probabilities of AMOC reduction and shutdown for a given greenhouse gas emission scenario are therefore poorly known. Moreover, previous studies of AMOC internal variability and predictability did not consider feedbacks between the GrIS and the AMOC. Here we propose to organize a model intercomparison project, involving the major climate modeling centers around the world, aimed at quantifying the effects of GrIS mass balance changes on current and future AMOC variability and predictability including uncertainty estimates. Realistic meltwater scenarios will be developed based on a new approximation of GrIS surface mass balance changes. The meltwater will be distributed to the ocean along the Greenland coast using a realistic runoff scheme (Figure). The range of meltwater scenarios will consider uncertainties associated with estimating future mass balance changes. Different state-of-the-science climate models will be forced with these scenarios in addition to standard radiative forcing in order to quantify the AMOC response to warming and meltwater input as well as the uncertainty of model AMOC sensitivities to the imposed forcings. Probabilistic AMOC projections will be computed based on the multi-model ensemble. Simulations with an interactive scheme of GrIS mass balance changes will be used to quantify the effect of ice sheet - ocean interactions on AMOC variability and predictability on decadal to centennial time scales. The model experiments will be carefully analyzed in order to understand responses and model differences. The probability of an AMOC shutdown in the coming two centuries will be quantified. The project will lead to international collaboration between scientists at different modeling centers and a new collaboration between global climate modelers and an expert on observations and detailed mass balance modeling of the GrIS.

Scenarios Descriptions

Greenland drainage basins (top right) and meltwater runoff projections for two scenarios.

Participating Modeling Groups:


Participants List

Funded by

the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's AMOC program

Project Description


Principle Investigators


Contact information for model output:

Research Topics



  • Bakker, P., Schmittner, A., Lenaerts, J. T. M., Abe-Ouchi, A., Bi, D., van den Broeke, M. R., Chan, W.-L., Beadling, R. L., Marsland, S. J., Mernild, S. H., Saenko, O. A., Swingedouw, D., Sullivan, A. and J. Jin (2016)
    Fate of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation - Strong decline under continued warming and Greenland melting
    Geophysical Research Letters, 43(23), 12,252-12,260, doi:10.1002/2016GL070457.
  • Bakker, P., Clark, P. U., Golledge, N. R., Schmittner, A., and M. E. Weber (2016)
    Centennial-scale Holocene climate variations amplified by Antarctic Ice Sheet discharge
    Nature, 541, 72–76, doi:10.1038/nature20582.
  • Presentations

  • Bakker, P., Ohgaito, R., Abe-Ouchi, A., Swingedow, D., Saenko, O., Marsland, S., Bi, D., Schmittner, A., Hu, A., Mernild, S., Yin, J., Beadling, R., Lenaerts, J., and van den Broeke, M. (2015)
    AMOCMIP: Probabilistic projections of future AMOC evolution driven by global warming and Greenland Ice Sheet melt (Oral)
    American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, Dec. 17, San Francisco Abstract pdf

  • Beadling, R., Yin, J., Bakker, P., and Souffer, R. (2015)
    Impact of Greenland Ice Sheet Melt on the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation in GFDL ESM2Mb (Poster)
    American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, Dec. 17, San Francisco Abstract