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2018
Adusumilli, S, Fricker HA, Siegfried MR, Padman L, Paolo FS, Ligtenberg SRM.  2018.  Variable basal melt rates of Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves, 1994-2016. Geophysical Research Letters. 45:4086-4095.   10.1002/2017gl076652   AbstractWebsite

We have constructed 23-year (1994-2016) time series of Antarctic Peninsula (AP) ice-shelf height change using data from four satellite radar altimeters (ERS-1, ERS-2, Envisat, and CryoSat-2). Combining these time series with output from atmospheric and firn models, we partitioned the total height-change signal into contributions from varying surface mass balance, firn state, ice dynamics, and basal mass balance. On the Bellingshausen coast of the AP, ice shelves lost 84 +/- 34Gt a(-1) to basal melting, compared to contributions of 50 +/- 7 Gt a(-1) from surface mass balance and ice dynamics. Net basal melting on the Weddell coast was 51 +/- 71 Gt a(-1). Recent changes in ice-shelf height include increases over major AP ice shelves driven by changes in firn state. Basal melt rates near Bawden Ice Rise, a major pinning point of Larsen C Ice Shelf, showed large increases, potentially leading to substantial loss of buttressing if sustained.

Minchew, BM, Gudmundsson GH, Gardner AS, Paolo FS, Fricker HA.  2018.  Modeling the dynamic response of outlet glaciers to observed ice-shelf thinning in the Bellingshausen Sea Sector, West Antarctica. Journal of Glaciology. 64:333-342.   10.1017/jog.2018.24   AbstractWebsite

Satellite observations of gravity anomalies, ice-surface elevation and glacier velocity show significant increases in net grounded-ice-mass loss over the past decade along the Bellingshausen Sea sector (BSS), West Antarctica, in areas where warm (> 1 degrees C) sea water floods the continental shelf. These observations provide compelling but indirect evidence that mass losses are driven primarily by reduced buttressing from the floating ice shelves caused by ocean-driven ice-shelf thinning. Here, we combine recent observations of ice velocity, thickness and thickness changes with an ice flow model to study the instantaneous dynamic response of BSS outlet glaciers to observed ice-shelf thinning, alone. Our model results show that multiple BSS outlet glaciers respond instantaneously to observed ice-shelf thinning, particularly in areas where ice shelves ground at discrete points. Increases in modeled and observed dynamic mass losses, however, account for similar to 5% of the mass loss rates estimated from gravity anomalies and changes in ice-surface elevation, suggesting that variations in surface mass balance may be key to understanding recent BSS mass loss. Our approach isolates the impact of ice-shelf thinning on glacier flow and shows that if ice-shelf thinning continues at or above current rates, total BSS mass loss will increase in the next decade.

Padman, L, Siegfried MR, Fricker HA.  2018.  Ocean tide influences on the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. Reviews of Geophysics. 56:142-184.   10.1002/2016rg000546   AbstractWebsite

Ocean tides are the main source of high-frequency variability in the vertical and horizontal motion of ice sheets near their marine margins. Floating ice shelves, which occupy about three quarters of the perimeter of Antarctica and the termini of four outlet glaciers in northern Greenland, rise and fall in synchrony with the ocean tide. Lateral motion of floating and grounded portions of ice sheets near their marine margins can also include a tidal component. These tide-induced signals provide insight into the processes by which the oceans can affect ice sheet mass balance and dynamics. In this review, we summarize in situ and satellite-based measurements of the tidal response of ice shelves and grounded ice, and spatial variability of ocean tide heights and currents around the ice sheets. We review sensitivity of tide heights and currents as ocean geometry responds to variations in sea level, ice shelf thickness, and ice sheet mass and extent. We then describe coupled ice-ocean models and analytical glacier models that quantify the effect of ocean tides on lower-frequency ice sheet mass loss and motion. We suggest new observations and model developments to improve the representation of tides in coupled models that are used to predict future ice sheet mass loss and the associated contribution to sea level change. The most critical need is for new data to improve maps of bathymetry, ice shelf draft, spatial variability of the drag coefficient at the ice-ocean interface, and higher-resolution models with improved representation of tidal energy sinks.

Paolo, FS, Padman L, Fricker HA, Adusumilli S, Howard S, Siegfried MR.  2018.  Response of Pacific-sector Antarctic ice shelves to the El Nino/Southern Oscillation. Nature Geoscience. 11:121-+.   10.1038/s41561-017-0033-0   AbstractWebsite

Satellite observations over the past two decades have revealed increasing loss of grounded ice in West Antarctica, associated with floating ice shelves that have been thinning. Thinning reduces an ice shelf's ability to restrain grounded-ice discharge, yet our understanding of the climate processes that drive mass changes is limited. Here, we use ice-shelf height data from four satellite altimeter missions (1994-2017) to show a direct link between ice-shelf height variability in the Antarctic Pacific sector and changes in regional atmospheric circulation driven by the El Nino/Southern Oscillation. This link is strongest from the Dotson to Ross ice shelves and weaker elsewhere. During intense El Nino years, height increase by accumulation exceeds the height decrease by basal melting, but net ice-shelf mass declines as basal ice loss exceeds ice gain by lower-density snow. Our results demonstrate a substantial response of Amundsen Sea ice shelves to global and regional climate variability, with rates of change in height and mass on interannual timescales that can be comparable to the longer-term trend, and with mass changes from surface accumulation offsetting a significant fraction of the changes in basal melting. This implies that ice-shelf height and mass variability will increase as interannual atmospheric variability increases in a warming climate.

2017
Damsgaard, A, Suckale J, Piotrowski JA, Houssais M, Siegfried MR, Fricker HA.  2017.  Sediment behavior controls equilibrium width of subglacial channels. Journal of Glaciology. 63:1034-1048.   10.1017/jog.2017.71   AbstractWebsite

Flow-frictional resistance at the base of glaciers and ice sheets is strongly linked to subglacial water pressure. Understanding the physical mechanisms that govern meltwater fluxes in subglacial channels is hence critical for constraining variations in ice flow. Previous mathematical descriptions of soft-bed subglacial channels assume a viscous till rheology, which is inconsistent with laboratory data and the majority of field studies. Here, we use a grain-scale numerical formulation coupled to pore-water dynamics to analyze the structural stability of channels carved into soft beds. Contrary to the soft-bed channel models assuming viscous till rheology, we show that the flanks of till channels can support substantial ice loads without creep closure of the channel, because the sediment has finite frictional strength. Increased normal stress on the channel flanks causes plastic failure of the sediment, and the channel rapidly shrinks to increase the ice-bed contact area. We derive a new parameterization for subglacial channelized flow on soft beds and show that channel dynamics are dominated by fluvial erosion and deposition processes with thresholds linked to the plastic rheology of subglacial tills. We infer that the described limits to channel size may cause subglacial drainage to arrange in networks of multiple closely spaced channels.

Sun, XL, Abshire JB, Borsa AA, Fricker HA, Yi DH, DiMarzio JP, Paolo FS, Brunt KM, Harding DJ, Neumann GA.  2017.  ICESAT/GLAS Altimetry Measurements: Received Signal Dynamic Range and Saturation Correction. Ieee Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing. 55:5440-5454.   10.1109/tgrs.2017.2702126   AbstractWebsite

NASA's Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat), which operated between 2003 and 2009, made the first satellite-based global lidar measurement of earth's ice sheet elevations, sea-ice thickness, and vegetation canopy structure. The primary instrument on ICESat was the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS), which measured the distance from the spacecraft to the earth's surface via the roundtrip travel time of individual laser pulses. GLAS utilized pulsed lasers and a direct detection receiver consisting of a silicon avalanche photodiode and a waveform digitizer. Early in the mission, the peak power of the received signal from snow and ice surfaces was found to span a wider dynamic range than anticipated, often exceeding the linear dynamic range of the GLAS 1064-nm detector assembly. The resulting saturation of the receiver distorted the recorded signal and resulted in range biases as large as similar to 50 cm for ice-and snow-covered surfaces. We developed a correction for this "saturation range bias" based on laboratory tests using a spare flight detector, and refined the correction by comparing GLAS elevation estimates with those derived from Global Positioning System surveys over the calibration site at the salar de Uyuni, Bolivia. Applying the saturation correction largely eliminated the range bias due to receiver saturation for affected ICESat measurements over Uyuni and significantly reduced the discrepancies at orbit crossovers located on flat regions of the Antarctic ice sheet.

Markus, T, Neumann T, Martino A, Abdalati W, Brunt K, Csatho B, Farrell S, Fricker H, Gardner A, Harding D, Jasinski M, Kwok R, Magruder L, Lubin D, Luthcke S, Morison J, Nelson R, Neuenschwander A, Palm S, Popescu S, Shum CK, Schutz BE, Smith B, Yang YK, Zwally J.  2017.  The Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2): Science requirements, concept, and implementation. Remote Sensing of Environment. 190:260-273.   10.1016/j.rse.2016.12.029   AbstractWebsite

The Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) mission used laser altimetry measurements to determine changes in elevations of glaciers and ice sheets, as well as sea ice thickness distribution. These measurements have provided important information on the response of the cryopshere (Earth's frozen surfaces) to changes in atmosphere and ocean condition. ICESat operated from 2003 to 2009 and provided repeat altimetry measurements not only to the cryosphere scientific community but also to the ocean, terrestrial and atmospheric scientific communities. The conclusive assessment of significant ongoing rapid changes in the Earth's ice cover, in part supported by ICESat observations, has strengthened the need for sustained, high accuracy, repeat observations similar to what was provided by the ICESat mission. Following recommendations from the National Research Council for an ICESat follow-on mission, the ICESat-2 mission is now under development for planned launch in 2018. The primary scientific aims of the ICESat-2 mission are to continue measurements of sea ice freeboard and ice sheet elevation to determine their changes at scales from outlet glaciers to the entire ice sheet, and from 105 of meters to the entire polar oceans for sea ice freeboard. ICESat carried a single beam profiling laser altimeter that produced similar to 70 m diameter footprints on the surface of the Earth at similar to 150 m along-track intervals. In contrast, ICESat-2 will operate with three pairs of beams, each pair separated by about 3 km cross-track with a pair spacing of 90 m. Each of the beams will have a nominal 17 m diameter footprint with an along -track sampling interval of 0.7 m. The differences in the ICESat-2 measurement concept are a result of overcoming some limitations associated with the approach used in the ICESat mission. The beam pair configuration of ICESat-2 allows for the determination of local cross -track slope, a significant factor in measuring elevation change for the outlet glaciers surrounding the Greenland and Antarctica coasts. The multiple beam pairs also provide improved spatial coverage. The dense spatial sampling eliminates along -track measurement gaps, and the small footprint diameter is especially useful for sea surface height measurements in the often narrow leads needed for sea ice freeboard and ice thickness retrievals. The ICESat-2 instrumentation concept uses a low energy 532 nm (green) laser in conjunction with single-photon sensitive detectors to measure range. Combining ICESat-2 data with altimetry data collected since the start of the ICESat mission in 2003, such as Operation IceBridge and ESA's CryoSat-2, will yield a 15+ year record of changes in ice sheet elevation and sea ice thickness. ICESat-2 will also provide information of mountain glacier and ice cap elevations changes, land and vegetation heights, inland water elevations, sea surface heights, and cloud layering and optical thickness. Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY license

Carter, SP, Fricker HA, Siegfried MR.  2017.  Antarctic subglacial lakes drain through sediment-floored canals: theory and model testing on real and idealized domains. Cryosphere. 11:381-405.   10.5194/tc-11-381-2017   AbstractWebsite

Over the past decade, satellite observations of ice surface height have revealed that active subglacial lake systems are widespread under the Antarctic Ice Sheet, including the ice streams. For some of these systems, additional observations of ice-stream motion have shown that lake activity can affect ice-stream dynamics. Despite all this new information, we still have insufficient understanding of the lake-drainage process to incorporate it into ice-sheet models. Process models for drainage of ice-dammed lakes based on conventional "R-channels" incised into the base of the ice through melting are unable to reproduce the timing and magnitude of drainage from Antarctic subglacial lakes estimated from satellite altimetry given the low hydraulic gradients along which such lakes drain. We have developed an alternative process model, in which channels are mechanically eroded into the underlying deformable subglacial sediment. When applied to the known active lakes of the Whillans-Mercer ice-stream system, the model successfully reproduced both the inferred magnitudes and recurrence intervals of lake-volume changes, derived from Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) laser altimeter data for the period 2003-2009. Water pressures in our model changed as the flood evolved: during drainage, water pressures initially increased as water flowed out of the lake primarily via a distributed system, then decreased as the channelized system grew, establishing a pressure gradient that drew water away from the distributed system. This evolution of the drainage system can result in the observed internal variability of ice flow over time. If we are correct that active subglacial lakes drain through canals in the sediment, this mechanism also implies that active lakes are typically located in regions underlain by thick subglacial sediment, which may explain why they are not readily observed using radio-echo-sounding techniques.

2016
Paolo, FS, Fricker HA, Padman L.  2016.  Constructing improved decadal records of Antarctic ice shelf height change from multiple satellite radar altimeters. Remote Sensing of Environment. 177:192-205.   10.1016/j.rse.2016.01.026   Abstract

Antarctica's ice shelves, the floating extensions of the ice sheet, exert an important dynamic constraint on the flow of ice from the grounded ice sheet to the ocean and, therefore, on changes in global sea level. Thinning of an ice shelf reduces its ability to restrain the ice discharge from the grounded ice sheet. However, our understanding of how ice shelf processes couple ice-sheet changes to climate variability is still rudimentary. In part, this is due to the brevity and low temporal resolution of surveys of ice shelf thickness relative to the broad range of time scales on which ice-sheet mass fluctuates. Here, we present improved procedures to construct 18-year (1994–2012) time series of Antarctic ice shelf surface height at high spatial resolution (~30 km) by merging data from three overlapping satellite radar altimeter missions (ERS-1, ERS-2, and Envisat). We apply an averaging scheme to enhance the signal-to-noise ratio of height changes over the floating ice shelves, and extract low-order polynomial trends using a robust approach (regularized regression with cross-validation) that accounts for both bias and variance in the fit. We construct formal confidence intervals by bootstrap resampling of the residuals of the fit. The largest source of height error arises from the interaction of the radar signal with the snow and firn surface; on annual time scales, changes in surface and sub-surface scattering and radar penetration lead to apparent height changes that are larger than the true surface-height change arising from densification. Our 18-year time series of surface height provide an insight into how ice shelves respond to the changing atmospheric and oceanic conditions. Our methods could also be applied to grounded portions of the ice sheets, both in Antarctica and Greenland.

Siegfried, MR, Fricker HA, Carter SP, Tulaczyk S.  2016.  Episodic ice velocity fluctuations triggered by a subglacial flood in West Antarctica. Geophysical Research Letters. 43:2640-2648.   10.1002/2016gl067758   AbstractWebsite

Height change anomalies in satellite altimeter data have been interpreted as the surface expressions of basal water moving into and out of subglacial lakes. These signals have been mapped throughout Antarctica on timescales of months to years, but only broad connections have been made between active lakes and ice dynamics. We present the first high-frequency observations of ice velocity evolution due to a cascading subglacial lake drainage event, collected over 5years (2010-2015) using Global Positioning System data on Whillans and Mercer ice streams, West Antarctica. We observed three episodic ice velocity changes over 2years, where flow speed increased by up to 4%, as well as an 11month disruption of the tidally modulated stick-slip cycle that dominates regional ice motion. Our observations reveal that basal conditions of an Antarctic ice stream can rapidly evolve and drive a dynamic ice response on subannual timescales, which can bias observations used to infer long-term ice sheet changes.

Alley, KE, Scambos TA, Siegfried MR, Fricker HA.  2016.  Impacts of warm water on Antarctic ice shelf stability through basal channel formation. Nature Geosci. advance online publication: Nature Publishing Group   10.1038/ngeo2675   Abstract

Antarctica’s ice shelves provide resistance to the flow of grounded ice towards the ocean. If this resistance is decreased as a result of ice shelf thinning or disintegration1, acceleration of grounded ice can occur, increasing rates of sea-level rise. Loss of ice shelf mass is accelerating, especially in West Antarctica, where warm seawater is reaching ocean cavities beneath ice shelves2. Here we use satellite imagery, airborne ice-penetrating radar and satellite laser altimetry spanning the period from 2002 to 2014 to map extensive basal channels in the ice shelves surrounding Antarctica. The highest density of basal channels is found in West Antarctic ice shelves. Within the channels, warm water flows northwards, eroding the ice shelf base and driving channel evolution on annual to decadal timescales. Our observations show that basal channels are associated with the development of new zones of crevassing, suggesting that these channels may cause ice fracture. We conclude that basal channels can form and grow quickly as a result of warm ocean water intrusion, and that they can structurally weaken ice shelves, potentially leading to rapid ice shelf loss in some areas.

Fricker, HA, Siegfried MR, Carter SP, Scambos TA.  2016.  A decade of progress in observing and modelling Antarctic subglacial water systems. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society a-Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences. 374   10.1098/rsta.2014.0294   AbstractWebsite

In the decade since the discovery of active Antarctic subglacial water systems by detection of subtle surface displacements, much progress has been made in our understanding of these dynamic systems. Here, we present some of the key results of observations derived from ICESat laser altimetry, CryoSat-2 radar altimetry, Operation IceBridge airborne laser altimetry, satellite image differencing and ground-based continuous Global Positioning System (GPS) experiments deployed in hydrologically active regions. These observations provide us with an increased understanding of various lake systems in Antarctica: Whillans/Mercer Ice Streams, Crane Glacier, Recovery Ice Stream, Byrd Glacier and eastern Wilkes Land. In several cases, subglacial water systems are shown to control ice flux through the glacier system. For some lake systems, we have been able to construct more than a decade of continuous lake activity, revealing internal variability on time scales ranging from days to years. This variability indicates that continuous, accurate time series of altimetry data are critical to understanding these systems. On Whillans Ice Stream, our results from a 5-year continuous GPS record demonstrate that subglacial lake flood events significantly change the regional ice dynamics. We also show how models for subglacial water flow have evolved since the availability of observations of lake volume change, from regional-scale models of water routeing to process models of channels carved into the subglacial sediment instead of the overlying ice. We show that progress in understanding the processes governing lake drainage now allows us to create simulated lake volume time series that reproduce time series from satellite observations. This transformational decade in Antarctic subglacial water research has moved us significantly closer to understanding the processes of water transfer sufficiently for inclusion in continental-scale ice-sheet models.

Marsh, OJ, Fricker HA, Siegfried MR, Christianson K, Nicholls KW, Corr HFJ, Catania G.  2016.  High basal melting forming a channel at the grounding line of Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica. Geophysical Research Letters. 43:250-255.   10.1002/2015gl066612   AbstractWebsite

Antarctica's ice shelves are thinning at an increasing rate, affecting their buttressing ability. Channels in the ice shelf base unevenly distribute melting, and their evolution provides insight into changing subglacial and oceanic conditions. Here we used phase-sensitive radar measurements to estimate basal melt rates in a channel beneath the currently stable Ross Ice Shelf. Melt rates of 22.20.2ma(-1) (>2500% the overall background rate) were observed 1.7km seaward of Mercer/Whillans Ice Stream grounding line, close to where subglacial water discharge is expected. Laser altimetry shows a corresponding, steadily deepening surface channel. Two relict channels to the north suggest recent subglacial drainage reorganization beneath Whillans Ice Stream approximately coincident with the shutdown of Kamb Ice Stream. This rapid channel formation implies that shifts in subglacial hydrology may impact ice shelf stability.

Mikucki, JA, Lee PA, Ghosh D, Purcell AM, Mitchell AC, Mankoff KD, Fisher AT, Tulaczyk S, Carter S, Siegfried MR, Fricker HA, Hodson T, Coenen J, Powell R, Scherer R, Vick-Majors T, Achberger AA, Christner BC, Tranter M, Team WS.  2016.  Subglacial Lake Whillans microbial biogeochemistry: a synthesis of current knowledge. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society a-Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences. 374   10.1098/rsta.2014.0290   AbstractWebsite

Liquid water occurs below glaciers and ice sheets globally, enabling the existence of an array of aquatic microbial ecosystems. In Antarctica, large subglacial lakes are present beneath hundreds to thousands of metres of ice, and scientific interest in exploring these environments has escalated over the past decade. After years of planning, the first team of scientists and engineers cleanly accessed and retrieved pristine samples from a West Antarctic subglacial lake ecosystem in January 2013. This paper reviews the findings to date on Subglacial Lake Whillans and presents new supporting data on the carbon and energy metabolism of resident microbes. The analysis of water and sediments from the lake revealed a diverse microbial community composed of bacteria and archaea that are close relatives of species known to use reduced N, S or Fe and CH4 as energy sources. The water chemistry of Subglacial Lake Whillans was dominated by weathering products from silicate minerals with a minor influence from seawater. Contributions to water chemistry from microbial sulfide oxidation and carbonation reactions were supported by genomic data. Collectively, these results provide unequivocal evidence that subglacial environments in this region of West Antarctica host active microbial ecosystems that participate in subglacial biogeochemical cycling.

2015
Paolo, FS, Fricker HA, Padman L.  2015.  Volume loss from Antarctic ice shelves is accelerating. Science.   10.1126/science.aaa0940   AbstractWebsite

The floating ice shelves surrounding the Antarctic Ice Sheet restrain the grounded ice-sheet flow. Thinning of an ice shelf reduces this effect, leading to an increase in ice discharge to the ocean. Using eighteen years of continuous satellite radar altimeter observations we have computed decadal-scale changes in ice-shelf thickness around the Antarctic continent. Overall, average ice-shelf volume change accelerated from negligible loss at 25 ± 64 km3 per year for 1994-2003 to rapid loss of 310 ± 74 km3 per year for 2003-2012. West Antarctic losses increased by 70% in the last decade, and earlier volume gain by East Antarctic ice shelves ceased. In the Amundsen and Bellingshausen regions, some ice shelves have lost up to 18% of their thickness in less than two decades.

Bougamont, M, Christoffersen P, Price SF, Fricker HA, Tulaczyk S, Carter SP.  2015.  Reactivation of Kamb Ice Stream tributaries triggers century-scale reorganization of Siple Coast ice flow in West Antarctica. Geophysical Research Letters. 42:8471-8480.   10.1002/2015gl065782   AbstractWebsite

Ongoing, centennial-scale flow variability within the Ross ice streams of West Antarctica suggests that the present-day positive mass balance in this region may reverse in the future. Here we use a three-dimensional ice sheet model to simulate ice flow in this region over 250years. The flow responds to changing basal properties, as a subglacial till layer interacts with water transported in an active subglacial hydrological system. We show that a persistent weak bed beneath the tributaries of the dormant Kamb Ice Stream is a source of internal ice flow instability, which reorganizes all ice streams in this region, leading to a reduced (positive) mass balance within decades and a net loss of ice within two centuries. This hitherto unaccounted for flow variability could raise sea level by 5mm this century. Better constraints on future sea level change from this region will require improved estimates of geothermal heat flux and subglacial water transport.

Walker, CC, Bassis JN, Fricker HA, Czerwinski RJ.  2015.  Observations of interannual and spatial variability in rift propagation in the Amery Ice Shelf, Antarctica, 2002-14. Journal of Glaciology. 61:243-252.   10.3189/2015JoG14J151   AbstractWebsite

Iceberg calving and basal melting are the two primary mass loss processes from the Antarctic ice sheet, accounting for approximately equal amounts of mass loss. Basal melting under ice shelves has been increasingly well constrained in recent work, but changes in iceberg calving rates remain poorly quantified. Here we examine the processes that precede iceberg calving, and focus on initiation and propagation of ice-shelf rifts. Using satellite imagery from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and the Multi-angle Imaging Spectroradiometer (MISR), we monitored five active rifts on the Amery Ice Shelf, Antarctica, from 2002 to 2014. We found a strong seasonal component: propagation rates were highest during (austral) summer and nearly zero during winter. We found substantial variability in summer propagation rates, but found no evidence that the variability was correlated with large-scale environmental drivers, such as atmospheric temperature, winds or sea-ice concentration. We did find a positive correlation between large propagation events and the arrival of tsunamis in the region. The variability appears to be related to visible structural boundaries within the ice shelf, e.g. suture zones or crevasse fields. This suggests that a complete understanding of rift propagation and iceberg calving needs to consider local heterogeneities within an ice shelf.

Holland, PR, Brisbourne A, Corr HFJ, McGrath D, Purdon K, Paden J, Fricker HA, Paolo FS, Fleming AH.  2015.  Oceanic and atmospheric forcing of Larsen C Ice-Shelf thinning. Cryosphere. 9:1005-1024.   10.5194/tc-9-1005-2015   AbstractWebsite

The catastrophic collapses of Larsen A and B ice shelves on the eastern Antarctic Peninsula have caused their tributary glaciers to accelerate, contributing to sea-level rise and freshening the Antarctic Bottom Water formed nearby. The surface of Larsen C Ice Shelf (LCIS), the largest ice shelf on the peninsula, is lowering. This could be caused by unbalanced ocean melting (ice loss) or enhanced firn melting and compaction (englacial air loss). Using a novel method to analyse eight radar surveys, this study derives separate estimates of ice and air thickness changes during a 15-year period. The uncertainties are considerable, but the primary estimate is that the surveyed lowering (0.066 +/- 0.017 myr(-1)) is caused by both ice loss (0.28 +/- 0.18 myr(-1)) and firn-air loss (0.037 +/- 0.026 myr(-1)). The ice loss is much larger than the air loss, but both contribute approximately equally to the lowering because the ice is floating. The ice loss could be explained by high basal melting and/or ice divergence, and the air loss by low surface accumulation or high surface melting and/or compaction. The primary estimate therefore requires that at least two forcings caused the surveyed lowering. Mechanisms are discussed by which LCIS stability could be compromised in the future. The most rapid pathways to collapse are offered by the ungrounding of LCIS from Bawden Ice Rise or ice-front retreat past a "compressive arch" in strain rates. Recent evidence suggests that either mechanism could pose an imminent risk.

Massom, RA, Giles AB, Warner RC, Fricker HA, Legresy B, Hyland G, Lescarmontier L, Young N.  2015.  External influences on the Mertz Glacier Tongue (East Antarctica) in the decade leading up to its calving in 2010. Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface. 120:490-506.   10.1002/2014jf003223   AbstractWebsite

The Mertz Glacier Tongue (MGT) in East Antarctica lost similar to 55% of its floating length in February 2010, when it calved large tabular iceberg C28 (78x35km). We analyze the behavior of the MGT over the preceding 12years using a variety of satellite data (synthetic aperture radar and Landsat imagery and Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite laser altimetry). Contact of its northwestern tip with the eastern flank of shoals from 2002/2003 caused eastward deflection of the ice flow by up to similar to 47 degrees. This change contributed to opening of a major rift system similar to 80km to the south, along which iceberg C28 eventually calved. Paradoxically, the seabed contact may have also held the glacier tongue in place to delay calving by similar to 8years. Our study also reveals the effects of other, more localized external influences on the MGT prior to calving. These include an abrupt sideways displacement of the glacier tongue front by at least similar to 145m following an apparent collision with iceberg C08 in early 2002 and calving of numerous small icebergs from the advancing northwestern front due to the chiseling action of small grounded icebergs and seabed contact, resulting in the loss of similar to 36km(2) of ice from 2001 to 2006. The example of the MGT confirms the need for accurate bathymetry in the vicinity of ice shelves and glacier tongues and suggests that the cumulative effect of external factors might be critical to understanding and modeling calving events and ice shelf stability, necessarily on a case-specific basis.

2014
Holt, TO, Glasser NF, Fricker HA, Padman L, Luckman A, King O, Quincey DJ, Siegfried MR.  2014.  The structural and dynamic responses of Stange Ice Shelf to recent environmental change. Antarctic Science. 26:646-660.   10.1017/s095410201400039x   AbstractWebsite

Stange Ice Shelf is the most south-westerly ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula, a region where positive trends in atmospheric and oceanic temperatures have been recently documented. In this paper, we use a range of remotely sensed datasets to evaluate the structural and dynamic responses of Stange Ice Shelf to these environmental changes. Ice shelf extent and surface structures were examined at regular intervals from optical and radar satellite imagery between 1973 and 2011. Surface speeds were estimated in 1989, 2004 and 2010 by tracking surface features in successive satellite images. Surface elevation change was estimated using radar altimetry data acquired between 1992 and 2008 by the European Remote Sensing Satellite (ERS) -1, -2 and Envisat. The mean number of surface melt days was estimated using the intensity of backscatter from Envisat's Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar instrument between 2006 and 2012. These results show significant shear fracturing in the southern portion of the ice shelf linked to enhanced flow speed as a consequence of measured thinning. However, we conclude that, despite the observed changes, Stange Ice Shelf is currently stable.

Fricker, HA, Carter SP, Bell RE, Scambos T.  2014.  Active lakes of Recovery Ice Stream, East Antarctica: a bedrock-controlled subglacial hydrological system. Journal of Glaciology. 60:1015-1030.   10.3189/2014JoG14J063   AbstractWebsite

A connected system of active subglacial lakes was revealed beneath Recovery Ice Stream, East Antarctica, by ICESat laser altimetry. Here we combine repeat-track analysis of ICESat (2003-09), Operation IceBridge laser altimetry and radio-echo sounding (2011 and 2012), and MODIS image differencing (2009-2011) to learn more about the lake activity history, the surface and bedrock topographic setting of the lakes and the constraints on water flow through the system. We extend the lake activity time series to 2012 for the three lower lakes and capture two major lake drainages. One lake underwent a large deflation between 2009 and 2011 while another lake, which had been continuously filling between 2003 and 2010, started to drain after 2011. Most of the active lakes are located in a similar to 1000 km long bedrock trough under the main trunk of Recovery Ice Stream, whose base is similar to 1500-2000 m below present-day sea level. The hydrologic system beneath Recovery Ice Stream is controlled by this unusually pronounced bedrock topography, in contrast to most Antarctic systems studied to date, which are controlled by the ice surface topography. Hydrologic connections among the lakes appear to be direct and responsive, and we reproduce the lake activity using a simple subglacial water model. We discuss potential causes of non-steady hydrologic behavior in major Antarctic catchments.

Moholdt, G, Padman L, Fricker HA.  2014.  Basal mass budget of Ross and Filchner-Ronne ice shelves, Antarctica, derived from Lagrangian analysis of ICESat altimetry. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface.   10.1002/2014JF003171   Abstract

Traditional methods of deriving temporal variability of Antarctic ice-shelf elevation from satellite altimetry use a fixed (“Eulerian”) reference frame, where the measured changes include advection of ice thickness gradients between measurement epochs. We present a new method which removes advection effects by using an independent velocity field to compare elevations in a moving (“Lagrangian”) reference frame. Applying the technique to ICESat laser altimetry for the period 2003-2009 over the two largest Antarctic ice shelves, Ross and Filchner-Ronne, we show that the Lagrangian approach reduces the variability of derived elevation changes by about 50% compared to the Eulerian approach, and reveals clearer spatial patterns of elevation change. The method simplifies the process of estimating basal mass budget from the residual of all other processes that contribute to ice-shelf elevation changes. We use field data and ICESat measurements over ice rises and the grounded ice sheet to account for surface accumulation and changes in firn air content, and remove the effect of ice-flow divergence using surface velocity and ice thickness data. The results show highest basal melt rates (>5 m a-1) near the deep grounding lines of major ice streams, but smaller melt rates (<5 m a-1) near the ice-shelf fronts are equally important to total meltwater production since they occur over larger areas. Integrating over the ice-shelf areas, we obtain basal mass budgets of -50 ± 64 Gt a-1 for Ross and -124 ± 66 Gt a-1 for Filchner-Ronne, with changes in firn air content as the largest error source.

Tulaczyk, S, Mikucki JA, Siegfried MR, Priscu JC, Barcheck CG, Beem LH, Behar A, Burnett J, Christner BC, Fisher AT, Fricker HA, Mankoff KD, Powell RD, Rack F, Sampson D, Scherer RP, Schwartz SY, Wissard Sci T.  2014.  WISSARD at Subglacial Lake Whillans, West Antarctica: scientific operations and initial observations. Annals of Glaciology. 55:51-58.   10.3189/2014AoG65A009   AbstractWebsite

A clean hot-water drill was used to gain access to Subglacial Lake Whillans (SLW) in late January 2013 as part of the Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) project. Over 3 days, we deployed an array of scientific tools through the SLW borehole: a downhole camera, a conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) probe, a Niskin water sampler, an in situ filtration unit, three different sediment corers, a geothermal probe and a geophysical sensor string. Our observations confirm the existence of a subglacial water reservoir whose presence was previously inferred from satellite altimetry and surface geophysics. Subglacial water is about two orders of magnitude less saline than sea water (0.37-0.41 psu vs 35 psu) and two orders of magnitude more saline than pure drill meltwater (<0.002 psu). It reaches a minimum temperature of -0.55 degrees C, consistent with depression of the freezing point by 7.019 MPa of water pressure. Subglacial water was turbid and remained turbid following filtration through 0.45 mu m filters. The recovered sediment cores, which sampled down to 0.8 m below the lake bottom, contained a macroscopically structureless diamicton with shear strength between 2 and 6 kPa. Our main operational recommendation for future subglacial access through water-filled boreholes is to supply enough heat to the top of the borehole to keep it from freezing.

Munchow, A, Padman L, Fricker HA.  2014.  Interannual changes of the floating ice shelf of Petermann Gletscher, North Greenland, from 2000 to 2012. Journal of Glaciology. 60:489-499.   10.3189/2014JoG13J135   AbstractWebsite

Petermann Gletscher, northwest Greenland, drains 4% of the Greenland ice sheet into Nares Strait. Its floating ice shelf retreated from 81 to 48 km in length during two large calving events in 2010 and 2012. We document changes in the three-dimensional ice-shelf structure from 2000 to 2012, using repeated tracks of airborne laser altimetry and ice radio-echo sounding, ICESat laser altimetry and MODIS visible imagery. The recent ice-shelf velocity, measured by tracking surface features between flights in 2010 and 2011, is similar to 1.25 km a(-1), similar to 15-30% faster than estimates made before 2010. The steady-state along-flow ice divergence represents 6.3 Gt a(-1) mass loss through basal melting (similar to 5 Gt a(-1)) and surface melting and sublimation (similar to 1.0 Gt a(-1)). Airborne laser altimeter data reveal thinning, both along a thin central channel and on the thicker ambient ice shelf. From 2007 to 2010 the ice shelf thinned by similar to 5 m a(-1), which represents a non-steady mass loss of similar to 4.1 Gt a(-1). We suggest that thinning in the basal channels structurally weakened the ice shelf and may have played a role in the recent calving events.

Heeszel, DS, Fricker HA, Bassis JN, O'Neel S, Walter F.  2014.  Seismicity within a propagating ice shelf rift: The relationship between icequake locations and ice shelf structure. Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface. 119:731-744.   10.1002/2013jf002849   AbstractWebsite

Iceberg calving is a dominant mass loss mechanism for Antarctic ice shelves, second only to basal melting. An important process involved in calving is the initiation and propagation of through-penetrating fractures called rifts; however, the mechanisms controlling rift propagation remain poorly understood. To investigate the mechanics of ice shelf rifting, we analyzed seismicity associated with a propagating rift tip on the Amery Ice Shelf, using data collected during the austral summers of 2004-2007. We apply a suite of passive seismological techniques including icequake locations, back projection, and moment tensor inversion. We confirm previous results that show ice shelf rifting is characterized by periods of relative quiescence punctuated by swarms of intense seismicity of 1 to 3 h. Even during periods of quiescence, we find significant deformation around the rift tip. Moment tensors, calculated for a subset of the largest icequakes (M-w>-2.0) located near the rift tip, show steeply dipping fault planes, horizontal or shallowly plunging stress orientations, and often have a significant volumetric component. They also reveal that much of the observed seismicity is limited to the upper 50 m of the ice shelf. This suggests a complex system of deformation that involves the propagating rift, the region behind the rift tip, and a system of rift-transverse crevasses. Small-scale variations in the mechanical structure of the ice shelf, especially rift-transverse crevasses and accreted marine ice, play an important role in modulating the rate and location of seismicity associated with the propagating ice shelf rifts.