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.

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.

Padman, L, Siegfried MR, Fricker HA.  2018.  Ocean tide influences on the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. Reviews of Geophysics. 56:142-184.   10.1002/2016rg000546   AbstractWebsite

Ocean tides are the main source of high-frequency variability in the vertical and horizontal motion of ice sheets near their marine margins. Floating ice shelves, which occupy about three quarters of the perimeter of Antarctica and the termini of four outlet glaciers in northern Greenland, rise and fall in synchrony with the ocean tide. Lateral motion of floating and grounded portions of ice sheets near their marine margins can also include a tidal component. These tide-induced signals provide insight into the processes by which the oceans can affect ice sheet mass balance and dynamics. In this review, we summarize in situ and satellite-based measurements of the tidal response of ice shelves and grounded ice, and spatial variability of ocean tide heights and currents around the ice sheets. We review sensitivity of tide heights and currents as ocean geometry responds to variations in sea level, ice shelf thickness, and ice sheet mass and extent. We then describe coupled ice-ocean models and analytical glacier models that quantify the effect of ocean tides on lower-frequency ice sheet mass loss and motion. We suggest new observations and model developments to improve the representation of tides in coupled models that are used to predict future ice sheet mass loss and the associated contribution to sea level change. The most critical need is for new data to improve maps of bathymetry, ice shelf draft, spatial variability of the drag coefficient at the ice-ocean interface, and higher-resolution models with improved representation of tidal energy sinks.

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.

2011
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.

2010
Brunt, KM, Fricker HA, Padman L, Scambos TA, O'Neel S.  2010.  Mapping the grounding zone of the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica, using ICESat laser altimetry. Annals of Glaciology. 51:71-79. AbstractWebsite

We use laser altimetry from the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) to map the grounding zone (CZ) of the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica, at 491 locations where ICESat tracks cross the grounding line (GL). Ice flexure in the GZ occurs as the ice shelf responds to short-term sea-level changes due primarily to tides. ICESat repeat-track analysis can be used to detect this region of flexure since each repeated pass is acquired at a different tidal phase; the technique provides estimates for both the landward limit of flexure and the point where the ice becomes hydrostatically balanced. We find that the ICESat-derived landward limits of tidal flexure are, in many places, offset by several km (and up to similar to 60 km) from the GL mapped previously using other satellite methods. We discuss the reasons why different mapping methods lead to different GL estimates, including: instrument limitations; variability in the surface topographic structure of the GZ; and the presence of ice plains. We conclude that reliable and accurate mapping of the GL is most likely to be achieved when based on synthesis of several satellite datasets.