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Marsh, OJ, Fricker HA, Siegfried MR, Christianson K, Nicholls KW, Corr HFJ, Catania G.  2016.  High basal melting forming a channel at the grounding line of Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica. Geophysical Research Letters. 43:250-255.   10.1002/2015gl066612   AbstractWebsite

Antarctica's ice shelves are thinning at an increasing rate, affecting their buttressing ability. Channels in the ice shelf base unevenly distribute melting, and their evolution provides insight into changing subglacial and oceanic conditions. Here we used phase-sensitive radar measurements to estimate basal melt rates in a channel beneath the currently stable Ross Ice Shelf. Melt rates of 22.20.2ma(-1) (>2500% the overall background rate) were observed 1.7km seaward of Mercer/Whillans Ice Stream grounding line, close to where subglacial water discharge is expected. Laser altimetry shows a corresponding, steadily deepening surface channel. Two relict channels to the north suggest recent subglacial drainage reorganization beneath Whillans Ice Stream approximately coincident with the shutdown of Kamb Ice Stream. This rapid channel formation implies that shifts in subglacial hydrology may impact ice shelf stability.

Mikucki, JA, Lee PA, Ghosh D, Purcell AM, Mitchell AC, Mankoff KD, Fisher AT, Tulaczyk S, Carter S, Siegfried MR, Fricker HA, Hodson T, Coenen J, Powell R, Scherer R, Vick-Majors T, Achberger AA, Christner BC, Tranter M, Team WS.  2016.  Subglacial Lake Whillans microbial biogeochemistry: a synthesis of current knowledge. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society a-Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences. 374   10.1098/rsta.2014.0290   AbstractWebsite

Liquid water occurs below glaciers and ice sheets globally, enabling the existence of an array of aquatic microbial ecosystems. In Antarctica, large subglacial lakes are present beneath hundreds to thousands of metres of ice, and scientific interest in exploring these environments has escalated over the past decade. After years of planning, the first team of scientists and engineers cleanly accessed and retrieved pristine samples from a West Antarctic subglacial lake ecosystem in January 2013. This paper reviews the findings to date on Subglacial Lake Whillans and presents new supporting data on the carbon and energy metabolism of resident microbes. The analysis of water and sediments from the lake revealed a diverse microbial community composed of bacteria and archaea that are close relatives of species known to use reduced N, S or Fe and CH4 as energy sources. The water chemistry of Subglacial Lake Whillans was dominated by weathering products from silicate minerals with a minor influence from seawater. Contributions to water chemistry from microbial sulfide oxidation and carbonation reactions were supported by genomic data. Collectively, these results provide unequivocal evidence that subglacial environments in this region of West Antarctica host active microbial ecosystems that participate in subglacial biogeochemical cycling.

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.

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.

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.

Fricker, HA, Padman L.  2006.  Ice shelf grounding zone structure from ICESat laser altimetry. Geophysical Research Letters. 33   10.1029/2006gl026907   AbstractWebsite

We present a technique for investigating the grounding zone (GZ) of Antarctic ice shelves using laser altimetry from the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat). Most surface height variability in the GZ is easily resolved by the ICESat laser's similar to 65 m footprint and similar to 172 m along-track spacing. Comparisons of repeated tracks sampled at different phases of the ocean tide identify the landward and seaward limits of tide-forced ice flexure, providing GZ location and width information for each track. Using ICESat data in the Institute Ice Stream region of southern Ronne Ice Shelf, we demonstrate that the location of the GZ based on feature identification in satellite imagery or digital elevation models may be in error by several km. Our results show that ICESat will contribute significantly to improving knowledge of GZ structure and to studies requiring accurate GZ locations, e. g., ice mass balance calculations and ice-sheet/ocean modeling.

Fricker, HA, Allison I, Craven M, Hyland G, Ruddell A, Young N, Coleman R, King M, Krebs K, Popov S.  2002.  Redefinition of the Amery Ice Shelf, East Antarctica, grounding zone. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 107   10.1029/2001jb000383   AbstractWebsite

[1] New evidence is presented which shows that the Amery Ice Shelf, East Antarctica, extends similar to240 km upstream of the previously reported position. We combine a digital elevation model of the Amery Ice Shelf created from ERS-1 satellite radar altimetry with measured ice thicknesses and a simple density model in a hydrostatic (buoyancy) calculation to map the extent of the floating ice. This reveals that the ice is floating as far south as 73.2degreesS. The result is confirmed by static GPS measurements collected during three consecutive field campaigns on the Amery Ice Shelf where the vertical component of the GPS shows a clear tidal signal at 72.98degreesS. Other evidence for the grounding zone position comes from an analysis of satellite imagery, mass flux calculations, and ice radar data. The southward extension of the grounding line substantially alters the shape and dimensions of the ocean cavity beneath the ice shelf, which has implications for modeling studies of sub-ice shelf processes, such as basal melting and freezing, ocean circulation, and tides. The new grounding line position will also improve geophysical studies, where the computation of ocean tidal loading corrections is important for postglacial rebound estimates and correction of satellite altimetry measurements within the region.