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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.

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.

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.