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Geoscientific Model Development An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: development and technical paper 28 Nov 2019

Submitted as: development and technical paper | 28 Nov 2019

Review status
A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal GMD.

A new open-source visco-elastic Earth deformation module implemented in Elmer (v8.4)

Thomas Zwinger1, Grace A. Nield2,3, Juha Ruokolainen1, and Matt A. King2 Thomas Zwinger et al.
  • 1CSC–IT Center for Science Ltd., Espoo, Finland
  • 2Surveying and Spatial Sciences, School of Technology, Environments and Design, University of Tasmania, Australia
  • 3Department of Geography, Durham University, Durham, UK

Abstract. We present a new, open source visco-elastic Earth-deformation model, Elmer/Earth. Using the multi-physics Finite Element package Elmer, a model to compute visco-elastic material deformation has been implemented into the existing linear elasticity solver routine. Unlike approaches often implemented in engineering codes, our solver accounts for the restoring force of buoyancy within a system of layers with depth-varying density. It does this by directly integrating the solution of the system rather than by applying stress-jump conditions in the form of Winkler foundations on inter-layer boundaries, as is usually needed when solving the minimisation problem given by the stress-divergence in commercial codes. We benchmarked the new model with results from a commercial Finite Element engineering package (ABAQUS, v2018) and another open-source code that uses visco-elastic Normal Mode theory, TABOO, using a flat-earth setup loaded by a cylindrical disc of 100 km diameter and 100 m height of ice density. Evaluating the differences of predicted surface deformation at the centre of the load and two distinctive distances (100 km and 200 km), average deviations of 7 cm and 2.7 cm of Elmer/Earth results to ABAQUS and TABOO, respectively, were observed. In view of more than 100 cm maximum vertical deformation and the different numerical methods and parameters, these are very encouraging results. Elmer is set up as a highly scalable parallel code and distributed under the (L)GPL license, meaning that large scale computations can be made without any licensing restrictions. Scaling figures presented in this paper show good parallel performance of the new model. Additionally, the high fidelity ice sheet code Elmer/Ice utilises the same source-base of Elmer and thereby the new model opens the way to undertaking high-resolution coupled ice-flow - Earth deformation simulations, which are required for robust projections of future sea-level rise and glacial isostatic adjustment.

Thomas Zwinger et al.

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Status: final response (author comments only)
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Thomas Zwinger et al.

Video supplement

Deformation in flat-earth model Elmer/Earth T. Zwinger

Thomas Zwinger et al.


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Latest update: 20 Feb 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
This manuscript presents a newly developed flat-earth model, Elmer/Earth, for visco-elastic treatment of solid earth deformation under ice loads. In contrary to many previous approaches with proprietary software, this model is based on the open source FEM code Elmer, with the advantage for scientists to apply and alter the model without license constraints. The new generation full-stress ice sheet model Elmer/Ice shares the same code base, enabling future coupled ice sheet-GIA simulations.
This manuscript presents a newly developed flat-earth model, Elmer/Earth, for visco-elastic...