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Bassis, JN, Coleman R, Fricker HA, Minster JB.  2005.  Episodic propagation of a rift on the Amery Ice Shelf, East Antarctica. Geophysical Research Letters. 32   10.1029/2004gl022048   AbstractWebsite

We investigate ice shelf rift propagation using a combination of GPS and seismic measurements near the tip of an active rift in the Amery Ice Shelf. These measurements reveal that propagation occurs in episodic bursts, which were identified based on swarms of seismicity accompanied by rapid rift widening. The bursts last approximately 4 hours and are separated by 10-24 days. In between bursts, the rift widens at a rate comparable to that of ice shelf spreading. Comparison of automatic weather station data and tidal amplitudes show that the propagation bursts are not directly triggered by winds or tides, suggesting that rift propagation is driven by the background glaciological stress in the ice shelf. We show that the ice debris that partly fills the rift may play a role in controlling the rate of propagation.

Bassis, JN, Fricker HA, Coleman R, Bock Y, Behrens J, Darnell D, Okal M, Minster JB.  2007.  Seismicity and deformation associated with ice-shelf rift propagation. Journal of Glaciology. 53:523-536.   10.3189/002214307784409207   AbstractWebsite

Previous observations have shown that rift propagation on the Amery Ice Shelf (AIS), East Antarctica, is episodic, occurring in bursts of several hours with typical recurrence times of several weeks. Propagation events were deduced from seismic swarms (detected with seismometers) concurrent with rapid rift widening (detected with GPS receivers). In this study, we extend these results by deploying seismometers and GPS receivers in a dense network around the tip of a propagating rift on the AIS over three field seasons (2002/03, 2004/05 and 2005/06). The pattern of seismic event locations shows that icequakes cluster along the rift axis, extending several kilometers back from where the rift tip was visible in the field. Patterns of icequake event locations also appear aligned with the ice-shelf flow direction, along transverse-to-rift crevasses. However, we found some key differences in the seismicity between field seasons. Both the number of swarms and the number of events within each swarm decreased during the final field season. The timing of the slowdown closely corresponds to the rift tip entering a suture zone, formed where two ice streams merge upstream. Beneath the suture zone lies a thick band of marine ice. We propose two hypotheses for the observed slowdown: (1) defects within the ice in the suture zone cause a reduction in stress concentration ahead of the rift tip; (2) increased marine ice thickness in the rift path slows propagation. We show that the size-frequency distribution of icequakes approximately follows a power law, similar to the well-known Gutenberg-Richter law for earthquakes. However, large icequakes are not preceded by foreshocks nor are they followed by aftershocks. Thus rift-related seismicity differs from the classic foreshock and aftershock distribution that is characteristic of large earth quakes.

Bassis, JN, Fricker HA, Coleman R, Minster JB.  2008.  An investigation into the forces that drive ice-shelf rift propagation on the Amery Ice Shelf, East Antarctica. Journal of Glaciology. 54:17-27.   10.3189/002214308784409116   AbstractWebsite

For three field seasons (2002/03, 2004/05, 2005/06) we have deployed a network of GPS receivers and seismometers around the tip of a propagating rift on the Amery Ice Shelf, East Antarctica. During these campaigns we detected seven bursts of episodic rift propagation. To determine whether these rift propagation events were triggered by short-term environmental forcings, we analyzed simultaneous ancillary data such as wind speeds, tidal amplitudes and sea-ice fraction (a proxy variable for ocean swell). We find that none of these environmental forcings, separately or together, correlated with rift propagation. This apparent insensitivity of ice-shelf rift propagation to short-term environmental forcings leads us to suggest that the rifting process is primarily driven by the internal glaciological stress. Our hypothesis is supported by order-of-magnitude calculations that the glaciological stress is the dominant term in the force balance. However, our calculations also indicate that as the ice shelf thins or the rift system matures and iceberg detachment becomes imminent, short-term stresses due to winds and ocean swell may become more important.

Beem, LH, Tulaczyk SM, King MA, Bougamont M, Fricker HA, Christoffersen P.  2014.  Variable deceleration of Whillans Ice Stream, West Antarctica. Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface. 119:212-224.   10.1002/2013jf002958   AbstractWebsite

The Whillans Ice Stream Ice Plain (WIP) has been slowing since at least 1963. Prior constraints on this slowdown were consistent with a constant long-term deceleration rate. New observations of ice velocity from 11 continuous and 3 seasonal GPS sites indicate the deceleration rate varies through time including on interannual time scales. Between 2009 and 2012 WIP decelerated at a rate (6.1 to 10.9 2 m/yr(2)) that was double the multidecadal average (3.0 to 5.6 2 m/yr(2)). To identify the causes of slowdown, we used new and prior velocity estimates to constrain longitudinal and transverse force budget models as well as a higher-order inverse model. All model results support the conclusion that the observed deceleration of WIP is caused by an increase in basal resistance to motion at a rate of 10 to 40 Pa/yr. Subglacial processes that may be responsible for strengthening the ice stream bed include basal freeze on, changes in subglacial hydrology, or increases in the area of resistant basal substrate through differential erosion. The observed variability in WIP deceleration rate suggests that dynamics in subglacial hydrology, plausibly driven by basal freeze on and/or activity of subglacial lakes, plays a key role in modulating basal resistance to ice motion in the region.

Bindschadler, R, Choi H, Wichlacz A, Bingham R, Bohlander J, Brunt K, Corr H, Drews R, Fricker H, Hall M, Hindmarsh R, Kohler J, Padman L, Rack W, Rotschky G, Urbini S, Vornberger P, Young N.  2011.  Getting around Antarctica: new high-resolution mappings of the grounded and freely-floating boundaries of the Antarctic ice sheet created for the International Polar Year. Cryosphere. 5:569-588.   10.5194/tc-5-569-2011   AbstractWebsite

Two ice-dynamic transitions of the Antarctic ice sheet - the boundary of grounded ice features and the freely-floating boundary - are mapped at 15-m resolution by participants of the International Polar Year project ASAID using customized software combining Landsat-7 imagery and ICESat/GLAS laser altimetry. The grounded ice boundary is 53 610 km long; 74% abuts to floating ice shelves or outlet glaciers, 19% is adjacent to open or sea-ice covered ocean, and 7% of the boundary ice terminates on land. The freely-floating boundary, called here the hydrostatic line, is the most landward position on ice shelves that expresses the full amplitude of oscillating ocean tides. It extends 27 521 km and is discontinuous. Positional (one-sigma) accuracies of the grounded ice boundary vary an order of magnitude ranging from +/-52 m for the land and open-ocean terminating segments to +/-502 m for the outlet glaciers. The hydrostatic line is less well positioned with errors over 2 km. Elevations along each line are selected from 6 candidate digital elevation models based on their agreement with ICESat elevation values and surface shape inferred from the Landsat imagery. Elevations along the hydrostatic line are converted to ice thicknesses by applying a firn-correction factor and a flotation criterion. BEDMAP-compiled data and other airborne data are compared to the ASAID elevations and ice thicknesses to arrive at quantitative (one-sigma) uncertainties of surface elevations of +/-3.6, +/-9.6, +/-11.4, +/-30 and +/-100 m for five ASAID-assigned confidence levels. Over one-half of the surface elevations along the grounded ice boundary and over one-third of the hydrostatic line elevations are ranked in the highest two confidence categories. A comparison between ASAID-calculated ice shelf thicknesses and BEDMAP-compiled data indicate a thin-ice bias of 41.2+/-71.3m for the ASAID ice thicknesses. The relationship between the seaward offset of the hydrostatic line from the grounded ice boundary only weakly matches a prediction based on beam theory. The mapped products along with the customized software to generate them and a variety of intermediate products are available from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Borsa, AA, Fricker HA, Bills BG, Minster JB, Carabajal CC, Quinn KJ.  2007.  Topography of the salar de Uyuni, Bolivia from kinematic GPS. Geophysical Journal International. 172:31-40.   10.1111/j.1365-246X.2007.03604.x   AbstractWebsite

The salar de Uyuni in the Bolivian Andes is the largest salt flat on Earth, exhibiting less than 1 m of vertical relief over an area of 9000 km(2). We report on a kinematic Global Positioning System (GPS) survey of a 45-by-54 km area in the eastern salar, conducted in September 2002 to provide ground truth for the Ice Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) mission. GPS post-processing included corrections for long-period GPS noise that significantly improved survey accuracy. We fit corrected GPS trajectories with 2-D Fourier basis functions, from which we created a digital elevation model (DEM) of the surface whose absolute accuracy we estimate to be at least 2.2 cm RMSE. With over two magnitudes better vertical resolution than the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission data, this DEM reveals decimetre-level topography that is completely absent in other topographic data sets. Longer wavelengths in the DEM correlate well with mapped gravity, suggesting a connection between broad-scale salar topography and the geoid similar to that seen over the oceans.

Borsa, AA, Moholdt G, Fricker HA, Brunt KM.  2014.  A range correction for ICESat and its potential impact on ice-sheet mass balance studies. The Cryosphere. 8:345-357.: Copernicus Publications   10.5194/tc-8-345-2014   AbstractWebsite

We report on a previously undocumented range error in NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) that degrades elevation precision and introduces a small but significant elevation trend over the ICESat mission period. This range error (the Gaussian-Centroid or "G-C" offset) varies on a shot-to-shot basis and exhibits increasing scatter when laser transmit energies fall below 20 mJ. Although the G-C offset is uncorrelated over periods ≤ 1 day, it evolves over the life of each of ICESat's three lasers in a series of ramps and jumps that give rise to spurious elevation trends of −0.92 to −1.90 cm yr−1, depending on the time period considered. Using ICESat data over the Ross and Filchner–Ronne ice shelves we show that (1) the G-C offset introduces significant biases in ice-shelf mass balance estimates, and (2) the mass balance bias can vary between regions because of different temporal samplings of ICESat. We can reproduce the effect of the G-C offset over these two ice shelves by fitting trends to sample-weighted mean G-C offsets for each campaign, suggesting that it may not be necessary to fully repeat earlier ICESat studies to determine the impact of the G-C offset on ice-sheet mass balance estimates.

Borsa, AA, Minster JB, Bills BG, Fricker HA.  2007.  Modeling long-period noise in kinematic GPS applications. Journal of Geodesy. 81:157-170.   10.1007/s00190-006-0097-x   AbstractWebsite

We develop and test an algorithm for modeling and removing elevation error in kinematic GPS trajectories in the context of a kinematic GPS survey of the salar de Uyuni, Bolivia. Noise in the kinematic trajectory ranges over 15 cm and is highly autocorrelated, resulting in significant contamination of the topographic signal. We solve for a noise model using crossover differences at trajectory intersections as constraints in a least-squares inversion. Validation of the model using multiple realizations of synthetic/simulated noise shows an average decrease in root-mean-square-error (RMSE) by a factor of four. Applying the model to data from the salar de Uyuni survey, we find that crossover differences drop by a factor of eight (from an RMSE of 5.6 to 0.7 cm), and previously obscured topographic features are revealed in a plan view of the corrected trajectory. We believe that this algorithm can be successfully adapted to other survey methods that employ kinematic GPS for positioning.

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.

Brunt, KM, Fricker HA, Padman L, Scambos TA, O'Neel S.  2010.  Mapping the grounding zone of the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica, using ICESat laser altimetry. Annals of Glaciology. 51:71-79. AbstractWebsite

We use laser altimetry from the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) to map the grounding zone (CZ) of the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica, at 491 locations where ICESat tracks cross the grounding line (GL). Ice flexure in the GZ occurs as the ice shelf responds to short-term sea-level changes due primarily to tides. ICESat repeat-track analysis can be used to detect this region of flexure since each repeated pass is acquired at a different tidal phase; the technique provides estimates for both the landward limit of flexure and the point where the ice becomes hydrostatically balanced. We find that the ICESat-derived landward limits of tidal flexure are, in many places, offset by several km (and up to similar to 60 km) from the GL mapped previously using other satellite methods. We discuss the reasons why different mapping methods lead to different GL estimates, including: instrument limitations; variability in the surface topographic structure of the GZ; and the presence of ice plains. We conclude that reliable and accurate mapping of the GL is most likely to be achieved when based on synthesis of several satellite datasets.

Brunt, KM, King MA, Fricker HA, MacAyeal DR.  2010.  Flow of the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica, is modulated by the ocean tide. Journal of Glaciology. 56:157-161. AbstractWebsite

The ice streams feeding the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica, have large tidally modulated (sinusoidal and stick-slip) flow, but the interaction with the ice shelf is poorly understood. We show that the flow of the Ross Ice Shelf front, up to similar to 650 km from the ice streams, exhibits smooth, sinusoidal motions corresponding to tidal modulation. These observations suggest a possible linking of the ice shelf with the ice streams to form a unified system that responds to small perturbations in stresses associated with ocean tides. If this is the case, the presence of the sinusoidal motion but the absence of stick-slip motion suggests there is damping of very high-frequency signals. The dissimilar signatures of the motions observed in the ice streams and at the front of the ice shelf present challenges to model development aimed at understanding the dynamics of coupled ice-stream/ice-shelf flow and the movement of ice across grounding lines.

Brunt, KM, Fricker HA, Padman L.  2011.  Analysis of ice plains of the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf, Antarctica, using ICESat laser altimetry. Journal of Glaciology. 57:965-975. AbstractWebsite

We use repeat-track laser altimeter data from the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) to map the grounding zone (GZ) of the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf, Antarctica. Ice flexure in the GZ occurs as the ice shelf responds to ocean-height changes due primarily to tides. We have identified three 'ice plains', regions of low surface slope near the GZ where the ice is close to hydrostatic equilibrium: one on Institute Ice Stream; another to its east; and another west of Foundation Ice Stream. The vertical information from repeated ICESat tracks enables us to study the topography, state of flotation and flexure characteristics across these features. In regions of ephemeral grounding, tidal migration of the grounding line allows us to estimate bed slope (similar to 1-2 x 10(-3)). From these studies we develop a classification scheme for ice plains, expressed in terms of the evolution, or 'life cycle', of these features. A lightly grounded ice plain progresses to a state of ephemeral grounding as the ice sheet thins near the GZ. Once sufficient thinning has occurred, the ice plain becomes a fully floating, relict ice plain with an undulated surface topography similar to that of lightly grounded ice; we expect viscous relaxation to a smooth ice-shelf surface to occur over a timescale of decades. Our improved insight into ice-plain evolution suggests added complexity in modeling ice in the vicinity of the GZ, and a role for ice-plain observations as a guide to relatively rapid changes in ice-sheet mass balance.