Snowball Earth: Asynchronous coupling of sea-glacier flow with a global climate model

D. Pollard, J. F. Kasting, M. E. Zugger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


During Snowball Earth episodes of the Neoproterozoic and Paleoproterozoic, limited amounts of tropical open ocean (Jormungand), or tropical ocean with thin ice cover, would help to explain (1) vigorous glacial activity in low latitudes, (2) survival of photosynthetic life, and (3) deglacial recovery without excessive buildup of atmospheric CO2. Some previous models have suggested that tropical open ocean or thin-ice cover is possible, however, its viability in the presence of kilometer-thick sea glaciers flowing from higher latitudes has not been demonstrated conclusively. Here we describe a new method of asynchronously coupling a zonal sea-glacier model with a 3-D global climate model and apply it to Snowball Earth. Equilibrium curves of ice line versus CO2 are mapped out, as well as their dependence on ocean heat transport efficiency, sea-glacier flow, and other model parameters. No climate states with limited tropical open ocean or thin ice are found in any of our model runs, including those with sea glaciers. If this result is correct, then other refugia such as cryoconite pans would have been required for life to survive. However, the reasons for the differences between our results and others should first be resolved. It is suggested that small-scale convective dynamics, affecting fractional snow cover in low latitudes, may be a critical factor accounting for these differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5157-5171
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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