News and Events
Ice Sheet System Model Workshop; Bergen, Norway, 2–4 June 2014  more >>
Join us for the first ISSM town hall meeting and the ISSM presentations  more >>
New Cryosphere paper assesses the importance of sub-element parameterization for grounding line motion  more >>
Sensitivity of Pine Island glacier to climate forcing show the cominant impact of melting on ice dynamics  more >>
Greenland will be far greater contributor to sea rise than expected  more >>

Welcome to the Ice Sheet System Model (ISSM) website. ISSM is the result of a collaboration between the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and University of California at Irvine. Its purpose is to tackle the challenge of modeling the evolution of the polar ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica.

ISSM is open source and is funded by the NASA Cryosphere and MAP (Modeling Analysis and Prediction) programs, JPL R&TD (Research, Technology and Development) and the National Science Foundation. Our main collaborators are: MSSMat Laboratory of École Centrale Paris, Argonne National Laboratory and the Department of Geology of University of Buffalo, NY.

As synthesized in the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report AR4, "future changes in the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheet mass, particularly due to changes in ice flow, are a major source of uncertainty that could increase sea level rise projections".

To remedy this problem, large scale ice flow models are necessary that can accurately model the evolution of Greenland and Antarctica in a warming climate. In order to achieve this goal, and improve projections of future sea level rise, ISSM relies on state of the art technologies, developed in synergy with the Research and Technology Development (R&TD) at JPL. These include:

  • Finite Element Modeling, which allows for the use of unstructured meshes to reach high resolutions in areas where ice flow dynamics is critical.
  • Parallel technologies, using state of the art clusters such as the NASA Advanced Supercomputing Pleiades cluster. This allows ISSM to run bigger models, with a faster turn around.
  • Anisotropic mesh refinement, which allows ISSM to zoom in on areas of interest, while saving computational resources by using coarse meshes where ice flow is stagnant.
  • Data assimilation using inverse methods with InSAR derived surface velocities to infer basal drag coefficients, ice rigidity and damage.
  • Multi-model methods, where different approximations for the dynamics of ice flow are solved in different areas, according to the type of flow encountered. This saves a lot of computer time by only focusing on critical areas of an ice cap.
  • Sensitivity analysis tools, based on the Dakota toolkit from Sandia National Laboratories. This suite of tools allows ISSM to constrain projections of future sea level rise, and to assess the reliability of such projections.
Modeled Antarctic surface velocity using ISSM
Modeled Antarctic surface velocity using ISSM