Climate Dynamics

, Volume 53, Issue 5–6, pp 2807–2824 | Cite as

Applying the Community Ice Sheet Model to evaluate PMIP3 LGM climatologies over the North American ice sheets

  • Jay R. AlderEmail author
  • Steven W. Hostetler


We apply the Community Ice Sheet Model (CISM2) to determine the extent to which the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) temperature and precipitation climatologies from the Paleoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project 3 (PMIP3) simulations support the large North American ice sheets that were prescribed as a boundary condition. We force CISM2 with eight PMIP3 general circulation models (GCMs), and an additional model, GENMOM. Seven GCMs simulate LGM climatologies that support positive surface mass balances of the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets (LIS, CIS) consistent with where ice was prescribed in the GCMs. Two GCMs simulate July temperatures that are too warm to support the ice sheets. Four of the nine CISM2 simulations support ice sheets in Beringia, in absence of prescribed ice in the driving GCMs and in disagreement with geologic evidence that indicates the area remained ice-free during the LGM. We test the sensitivity of our results to a range of snow and ice positive degree-day factors, daily, monthly, and climatological temperature and precipitation inputs, and we evaluate the role of albedo and snow in the simulations. Areas with perennial snow in the GCM simulations correspond well to the presence of ice in the CISM2 simulation. GCMs with unrealistically low surface albedos over the LIS yield simulations that fail to simulate realistic ice sheets.


PMIP3 LGM Model evaluation CISM2 Ice sheet modeling 



We thank William Lipscomb, Matthew Hoffman, Stephen Price, Gunter Leguy and the UCAR and LANL CISM team for help with the ice sheet model. Lauren Gregoire provided the North American domain and configuration files. We acknowledge the modeling centers that contributed LGM simulations to the PMIP3/CMIP5 archive. Maureen Walczak and the reviewers provided helpful feedback that improved our manuscript.

Author Contributions

Jay Alder performed the ice sheet modeling and analysis. Steve Hostetler helped guide the experimental design and interpret the results. Both authors co-wrote the paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

382_2019_4663_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 2041 KB)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.U.S. Geological SurveyCorvallisUSA

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