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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.

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.

Carter, SP, Fricker HA, Siegfried MR.  2013.  Evidence of rapid subglacial water piracy under Whillans Ice Stream, West Antarctica. Journal of Glaciology. 59:1147-1162.   10.3189/2013JoG13J085   AbstractWebsite

The subglacial water system of lower Whillans Ice Stream on the Sip le Coast, West Antarctica, contains numerous connected subglacial lakes in three hydrological basins (northern, central and southern). We use Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) data to derive estimates of lake volume change and regional thickness changes. By combining these results with a water budget model, we show that a uniform, localized thickness increase perturbed the hydropotential, resulting in a change in course of a major flow path within the system in 2005. Water originating from upper Whillans and Kamb Ice Streams that previously supplied the southern basin became diverted toward Subglacial Lake Whillans (SLW). This diversion led to a tenfold filling rate increase of SLW. Our observation suggests that water piracy may be common in the Sip le Coast region, where the gentle basal relief makes the basal hydropotential particularly sensitive to small changes in ice thickness. Given the previously inferred connections between water piracy and ice-stream slowdown elsewhere in the region, the subtle and complex nature of this system presents new challenges for numerical models.

Carter, SP, Fricker HA, Blankenship DD, Johnson JV, Lipscomb WH, Price SF, Young DA.  2011.  Modeling 5 years of subglacial lake activity in the MacAyeal Ice Stream (Antarctica) catchment through assimilation of ICESat laser altimetry. Journal of Glaciology. 57:1098-1112. AbstractWebsite

Subglacial lakes beneath Antarctica's fast-moving ice streams are known to undergo similar to 1 km(3) volume changes on annual timescales. Focusing on the MacAyeal Ice Stream (MacIS) lake system, we create a simple model for the response of subglacial water distribution to lake discharge events through assimilation of lake volume changes estimated from Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) laser altimetry. We construct a steady-state water transport model in which known subglacial lakes are treated as either sinks or sources depending on the ICESat-derived filling or draining rates. The modeled volume change rates of five large subglacial lakes in the downstream portion of MacIS are shown to be consistent with observed filling rates if the dynamics of all upstream lakes are considered. However, the variable filling rate of the northernmost lake suggests the presence of an undetected lake of similar size upstream. Overall, we show that, for this fast-flowing ice stream, most subglacial lakes receive >90% of their water from distant distributed sources throughout the catchment, and we confirm that water is transported from regions of net basal melt to regions of net basal freezing. Our study provides a geophysically based means of validating subglacial water models in Antarctica and is a potential way to parameterize subglacial lake discharge events in large-scale ice-sheet models where adequate data are available.

Abdalati, W, Zwally HJ, Bindschadler R, Csatho B, Farrell SL, Fricker HA, Harding D, Kwok R, Lefsky M, Markus T, Marshak A, Neumann T, Palm S, Schutz B, Smith B, Spinhirne J, Webb C.  2010.  The ICESat-2 Laser Altimetry Mission. Proceedings of the IEEE . 98:735-751.   10.1109/jproc.2009.2034765   AbstractWebsite

Satellite and aircraft observations have revealed that remarkable changes in the Earth's polar ice cover have occurred in the last decade. The impacts of these changes, which include dramatic ice loss from ice sheets and rapid declines in Arctic sea ice, could be quite large in terms of sea level rise and global climate. NASA's Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2), currently planned for launch in 2015, is specifically intended to quantify the amount of change in ice sheets and sea ice and provide key insights into their behavior. It will achieve these objectives through the use of precise laser measurements of surface elevation, building on the groundbreaking capabilities of its predecessor, the Ice Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat). In particular, ICESat-2 will measure the temporal and spatial character of ice sheet elevation change to enable assessment of ice sheet mass balance and examination of the underlying mechanisms that control it. The precision of ICESat-2's elevation measurement will also allow for accurate measurements of sea ice freeboard height, from which sea ice thickness and its temporal changes can be estimated. ICESat-2 will provide important information on other components of the Earth System as well, most notably large-scale vegetation biomass estimates through the measurement of vegetation canopy height. When combined with the original ICESat observations, ICESat-2 will provide ice change measurements across more than a 15-year time span. Its significantly improved laser system will also provide observations with much greater spatial resolution, temporal resolution, and accuracy than has ever been possible before.

Massom, RA, Giles AB, Fricker HA, Warner RC, Legresy B, Hyland G, Young N, Fraser AD.  2010.  Examining the interaction between multi-year landfast sea ice and the Mertz Glacier Tongue, East Antarctica: Another factor in ice sheet stability? Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 115   10.1029/2009jc006083   AbstractWebsite

The Mertz Glacier tongue (MGT), East Antarctica, has a large area of multi-year fast sea ice (MYFI) attached to its eastern edge. We use various satellite data sets to study the extent, age, and thickness of the MYFI and how it interacts with the MGT. We estimate its age to be at least 25 years and its thickness to be 10-55 m; this is an order of magnitude thicker than the average regional sea-ice thickness and too thick to be formed through sea-ice growth alone. We speculate that the most plausible process for its growth after initial formation is marine (frazil) ice accretion. The satellite data provide two types of evidence for strong mechanical coupling between the two types of ice: The MYFI moves with the MGT, and persistent rifts that originate in the MGT continue to propagate for large distances into the MYFI. The area of MYFI decreased by 50% following the departure of two large tabular icebergs that acted as pinning points and protective barriers. Future MYFI extent will be affected by subsequent icebergs from the Ninnis Glacier and the imminent calving of the MGT. Fast ice is vulnerable to changing atmospheric and oceanic conditions, and its disappearance may have an influence on ice tongue/ice shelf stability. Understanding the influence of thick MYFI on floating ice tongues/ice shelves may be significant to understanding the processes that control their evolution and how these respond to climate change, and thus to predicting the future of the Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Fricker, HA, Young NW, Allison I, Coleman R.  2002.  Iceberg calving from the Amery Ice Shelf, East Antarctica. Annals of Glaciology, Vol 34, 2002. 34( Winther JG, Solberg R, Eds.).:241-246., Cambridge: Int Glaciological Soc   10.3189/172756402781817581   Abstract

We investigate the iceberg-calving cycle of the Amery Ice Shelf (AIS), East Antarctica, using evidence acquired between 1936 and 2000. The most recent major iceberg-calving event occurred between late 1963 and early 1964, when a large berg totalling about 10 000 km(2) in area broke From the ice front. The rate of forward advance of the ice front is presently 1300-1400 m a(-1). At this rate of advance, based on the present icefront position front recent RADARSAT imagery, it would take 20-25 years to attain the 1963 (pre-calve) position, suggesting that the AIS calving cycle has a period of approximately 60-70 years. Two longitudinal (parallel-to-flow) rifts, approximately 25 km apart at the AIS front, are observed in satellite imagery acquired over the last 14+ years. These rifts have formed at suture zones the shelf where neighbouring now-bands have separated in association with transverse spreading. The rifts were 15 km (rift A) and 26 km (rift B) in length in September 2000, and will probably become the sides of a large tabular iceberg (23 km x 25 km). A transverse (perpendicular-to-flow) fracture, visible at the upstream end of rift A in 1996, had propagated 6 km towards rift B by September 2000; when it meets rift B the iceberg will calve. A satellite image acquired in 1962 shows an embayment of this size in the AIS front, hence we deduce that this calving pattern also occurred during the last calving cycle, and therefore that the calving behaviour of the AIS apparently follows a regular pattern.