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Frontal ablation processes at marine‐terminating glaciers are challenging to observe and difficult to represent in numerical ice flow models, yet play critical roles in modulating ice sheet mass balance. Current ice sheet models typically rely on simple iceberg calving models to prescribe either terminus positions or iceberg calving rates, but the relative accuracies and uncertainties of these calving models remain largely unconstrained at the ice sheet scale. Here, we evaluate six published iceberg calving models against spatially and temporally diverse observations from 50 marine‐terminating outlet glaciers in Greenland. We seek the single model that best reproduces observed conditions across all glaciers, at all observation times, and with low sensitivity to calibration uncertainty. Five of six calving models can produce unbiased estimates of calving position or calving rate at the ice sheet scale. However, time series analysis reveals that, when using a single, optimized model parameter, rate‐predicting calving models frequently yield calving rate errors in excess of 10 m d−1. In comparison, terminus position‐predicting calving models more accurately track observed changes in terminus position (remaining within ~1 km of the observed grounded terminus position). Overall, our results indicate that the crevasse depth calving model provides the best balance of high accuracy and low sensitivity to imperfect parameter calibration. While the crevasse depth model appears unlikely to capture the true controls on crevasse penetration, numerically, it reproduces observed terminus dynamics with high fidelity and should be considered a leading candidate for use in models of the Greenland Ice Sheet.

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This document was originally published in JGR Earth Surface by Wiley on behalf of the American Geophysical Union. Copyright restrictions may apply. doi: 10.1029/2019JF005444

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