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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.

Siegfried, MR, Fricker HA.  2018.  Thirteen years of subglacial lake activity in Antarctica from multi-mission satellite altimetry. Annals of Glaciology. 59:42-55.   10.1017/aog.2017.36   AbstractWebsite

The ability to detect the surface expression of moving water beneath the Antarctic ice sheet by satellite has revealed a dynamic basal environment, with implications for regional ice dynamics, grounding-line stability, and fluxes of freshwater and nutrients to the Southern Ocean. Knowledge of subglacial activity on timescales important for near-term prediction of ice-sheet fluctuations (decadal to century) is limited by the short observational record of NASA's Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) laser altimetry mission used to generate the last continent-wide survey (2003-08). Here, we use synthetic aperture radar-interferometric-mode data from ESA's CryoSat-2 radar altimetry mission (2010-present), which samples 45 of the ICESat-derived subglacial lakes, to extend their time series to the end of 2016. The extended time series show that there have been surface-height changes at 20 of the 45 lakes since 2008, indicating that some of these features are persistent and potentially cyclic, while other features show negligible changes, suggesting these may be transient or nonhydrological features. Continued monitoring of active lakes for both height and velocity changes, as well as developing methods for identifying additional lakes, is critical to quantifying the full distribution of active subglacial lakes in Antarctica.

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.

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.

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.

Smith, BE, Fricker HA, Joughin IR, Tulaczyk S.  2009.  An inventory of active subglacial lakes in Antarctica detected by ICESat (2003-2008). Journal of Glaciology. 55:573-595. AbstractWebsite

Through the detection of surface deformation in response to water movement, recent satellite studies have demonstrated the existence of subglacial lakes in Antarctica that fill and drain on timescales of months to years. These studies, however, were confined to specific regions of the ice sheet. Here we present the first comprehensive study of these 'active' lakes for the Antarctic ice sheet north of 86 degrees S, based on 4.5 years (2003-08) of NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) laser altimeter data. Our analysis has detected 124 lakes that were active during this period, and we estimate volume changes for each lake. The ICESat-detected lakes are prevalent in coastal Antarctica, and are present under most of the largest ice-stream catchments. Lakes sometimes appear to transfer water from one to another, but also often exchange water with distributed sources undetectable by ICESat, suggesting that the lakes may provide water to or withdraw water from the hydrologic systems that lubricate glacier flow. Thus, these reservoirs may contribute pulses of water to produce rapid temporal changes in glacier speeds, but also may withdraw water at other times to slow flow.