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Walker, CC, Bassis JN, Fricker HA, Czerwinski RJ.  2013.  Structural and environmental controls on Antarctic ice shelf rift propagation inferred from satellite monitoring. Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface. 118:2354-2364.   10.1002/2013jf002742   AbstractWebsite

Iceberg calving from ice shelves accounts for nearly half of the mass loss from the Antarctic Ice Sheet, yet our understanding of this process is limited. The precursor to iceberg calving is large through-cutting fractures, called rifts, that can propagate for decades after they have initiated until they become iceberg detachment boundaries. To improve our knowledge of rift propagation, we monitored the lengths of 78 rifts in 13 Antarctic ice shelves using satellite imagery from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer and Multiangle Imaging Spectroradiometer between 2002 and 2012. This data set allowed us to monitor trends in rift propagation over the past decade and test if variation in trends is controlled by variable environmental forcings. We found that 43 of the 78 rifts were dormant, i.e., propagated less than 500 m over the observational interval. We found only seven rifts propagated continuously throughout the decade. An additional eight rifts propagated for at least 2 years prior to arresting and remaining dormant for the rest of the decade, and 13 rifts exhibited isolated sudden bursts of propagation after 2 or more years of dormancy. Twelve of the fifteen active rifts were initiated at the ice shelf fronts, suggesting that front-initiated rifts are more active than across-flow rifts. Although we did not find a link between the observed variability in rift propagation rate and changes in atmospheric temperature or sea ice concentration correlated with, we did find a statistically significant correlation between the arrival of tsunamis and propagation of front-initiated rifts in eight ice shelves. This suggests a connection between ice shelf rift propagation and mechanical ocean interaction that needs to be better understood.

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.

Walter, F, O'Neel S, McNamara D, Pfeffer WT, Bassis JN, Fricker HA.  2010.  Iceberg calving during transition from grounded to floating ice: Columbia Glacier, Alaska. Geophysical Research Letters. 37   10.1029/2010gl043201   AbstractWebsite

The terminus of Columbia Glacier, Alaska, unexpectedly became ungrounded in 2007 during its prolonged retreat. Visual observations showed that calving changed from a steady release of low-volume bergs, to episodic flow-perpendicular rifting, propagation, and release of very large icebergs - a style reminiscent of calving from ice shelves. Here, we compare passive seismic and photographic observations through this transition to examine changes in calving. Mechanical changes accompany the visible changes in calving style post flotation: generation of seismic energy during calving is substantially reduced. We propose this is partly due to changes in source processes. Citation: Walter, F., S. O'Neel, D. McNamara, W. T. Pfeffer, J. N. Bassis, and H. A. Fricker (2010), Iceberg calving during transition from grounded to floating ice: Columbia Glacier, Alaska, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L15501, doi:10.1029/2010GL043201.

Walter, F, Amundson JM, O'Neel S, Truffer M, Fahnestock M, Fricker HA.  2012.  Analysis of low-frequency seismic signals generated during a multiple-iceberg calving event at Jakobshavn Isbrae, Greenland. Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface. 117   10.1029/2011jf002132   AbstractWebsite

We investigated seismic signals generated during a large-scale, multiple iceberg calving event that occurred at Jakobshavn Isbrae, Greenland, on 21 August 2009. The event was recorded by a high-rate time-lapse camera and five broadband seismic stations located within a few hundred kilometers of the terminus. During the event two full-glacier-thickness icebergs calved from the grounded (or nearly grounded) terminus and immediately capsized; the second iceberg to calve was two to three times smaller than the first. The individual calving and capsize events were well-correlated with the radiation of low-frequency seismic signals (<0.1 Hz) dominated by Love and Rayleigh waves. In agreement with regional records from previously published 'glacial earthquakes', these low-frequency seismic signals had maximum power and/or signal-to-noise ratios in the 0.05-0.1 Hz band. Similarly, full waveform inversions indicate that these signals were also generated by horizontal single forces acting at the glacier terminus. The signals therefore appear to be local manifestations of glacial earthquakes, although the magnitudes of the signals (twice-time integrated force histories) were considerably smaller than previously reported glacial earthquakes. We thus speculate that such earthquakes may be a common, if not pervasive, feature of all full-glacier-thickness calving events from grounded termini. Finally, a key result from our study is that waveform inversions performed on low-frequency, calving-generated seismic signals may have only limited ability to quantitatively estimate mass losses from calving. In particular, the choice of source time function has little impact on the inversion but dramatically changes the earthquake magnitude. Accordingly, in our analysis, it is unclear whether the smaller or larger of the two calving icebergs generated a larger seismic signal.