Publications

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2018
Shepherd, A, Fricker HA, Farrell SL.  2018.  Trends and connections across the Antarctic cryosphere. Nature. 558:223-232.   10.1038/s41586-018-0171-6   AbstractWebsite

Satellite observations have transformed our understanding of the Antarctic cryosphere. The continent holds the vast majority of Earth's fresh water, and blankets swathes of the Southern Hemisphere in ice. Reductions in the thickness and extent of floating ice shelves have disturbed inland ice, triggering retreat, acceleration and draw-down of marine-terminating glaciers. The waxing and waning of Antarctic sea ice is one of Earth's greatest seasonal habitat changes, and although the maximum extent of the sea ice has increased modestly since the 1970s, inter-annual variability is high, and there is evidence of longer-term decline in its extent.

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.

2014
Munchow, A, Padman L, Fricker HA.  2014.  Interannual changes of the floating ice shelf of Petermann Gletscher, North Greenland, from 2000 to 2012. Journal of Glaciology. 60:489-499.   10.3189/2014JoG13J135   AbstractWebsite

Petermann Gletscher, northwest Greenland, drains 4% of the Greenland ice sheet into Nares Strait. Its floating ice shelf retreated from 81 to 48 km in length during two large calving events in 2010 and 2012. We document changes in the three-dimensional ice-shelf structure from 2000 to 2012, using repeated tracks of airborne laser altimetry and ice radio-echo sounding, ICESat laser altimetry and MODIS visible imagery. The recent ice-shelf velocity, measured by tracking surface features between flights in 2010 and 2011, is similar to 1.25 km a(-1), similar to 15-30% faster than estimates made before 2010. The steady-state along-flow ice divergence represents 6.3 Gt a(-1) mass loss through basal melting (similar to 5 Gt a(-1)) and surface melting and sublimation (similar to 1.0 Gt a(-1)). Airborne laser altimeter data reveal thinning, both along a thin central channel and on the thicker ambient ice shelf. From 2007 to 2010 the ice shelf thinned by similar to 5 m a(-1), which represents a non-steady mass loss of similar to 4.1 Gt a(-1). We suggest that thinning in the basal channels structurally weakened the ice shelf and may have played a role in the recent calving events.

2013
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.

2012
Carter, SP, Fricker HA.  2012.  The supply of subglacial meltwater to the grounding line of the Sip le Coast, West Antarctica. Annals of Glaciology. 53:267-280.   10.3189/2012AoG60A119   AbstractWebsite

Recent satellite studies have shown that active subglacial lakes exist under the Antarctic ice streams and persist almost to their grounding lines. When the lowest-lying lakes flood, the water crosses the grounding line and enters the sub-ice-shelf cavity. Modeling results suggest that this additional freshwater influx may significantly enhance melting at the ice-shelf base. We examine the spatial and temporal variability in subglacial water supply to the grounding lines of the Sip le Coast ice streams, by combining estimates for lake volume change derived from Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) data with a model for subglacial water transport. Our results suggest that subglacial outflow tends to concentrate towards six embayments in the Sip le Coast grounding line. Although mean grounding line outflow is similar to 60 m(3) s(-1) for the entire Sip le Coast, maximum local grounding line outflow may temporarily exceed 300 m(3) s(-1) during the synchronized flooding of multiple lakes in a hydrologic basin. Variability in subglacial outflow due to subglacial lake drainage may account for a substantial portion of the observed variability in freshwater flux out of the Ross Ice Shelf cavity. The temporal variability in grounding line outflow results in a net reduction in long-term average melt rate, but temporary peak melting rates may exceed the long-term average by a factor of three.

2011
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.

2010
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.

Fricker, HA, Scambos T, Carter S, Davis C, Haran T, Joughin I.  2010.  Synthesizing multiple remote-sensing techniques for subglacial hydrologic mapping: application to a lake system beneath MacAyeal Ice Stream, West Antarctica. Journal of Glaciology. 56:187-199. AbstractWebsite

We present an analysis of the active hydrologic system of MacAyeal Ice Stream (MacIS), West Antarctica, from a synthesis of multiple remote-sensing techniques: satellite laser altimetry; satellite image differencing; and hydrologic potential mapping (using a satellite-derived DEM and a bedrock DEM from airborne radio-echo sounding). Combining these techniques augments the information provided by each one individually, and allows us to develop a protocol for studying subglacial hydrologic systems in a holistic manner. Our study reveals five large active subglacial lakes under MacIS, the largest of which undergoes volume changes of at least 1.0 km(3). We discuss the hydrologic properties of this system and present evidence for links between the lakes. At least three of the lakes are co-located with sticky spots, i.e. regions of high local basal shear stress. We also find evidence for surface elevation changes due to ice-dynamic effects (not just water movement) caused by changes in basal resistance. Lastly, we show that satellite radar altimetry is of limited use for monitoring lake activity on fast-flowing ice streams with surfaces that undulate on similar to 10 km length scales.

2007
Borsa, AA, Minster JB, Bills BG, Fricker HA.  2007.  Modeling long-period noise in kinematic GPS applications. Journal of Geodesy. 81:157-170.   10.1007/s00190-006-0097-x   AbstractWebsite

We develop and test an algorithm for modeling and removing elevation error in kinematic GPS trajectories in the context of a kinematic GPS survey of the salar de Uyuni, Bolivia. Noise in the kinematic trajectory ranges over 15 cm and is highly autocorrelated, resulting in significant contamination of the topographic signal. We solve for a noise model using crossover differences at trajectory intersections as constraints in a least-squares inversion. Validation of the model using multiple realizations of synthetic/simulated noise shows an average decrease in root-mean-square-error (RMSE) by a factor of four. Applying the model to data from the salar de Uyuni survey, we find that crossover differences drop by a factor of eight (from an RMSE of 5.6 to 0.7 cm), and previously obscured topographic features are revealed in a plan view of the corrected trajectory. We believe that this algorithm can be successfully adapted to other survey methods that employ kinematic GPS for positioning.