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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.

Fricker, HA, Scambos T, Bindschadler R, Padman L.  2007.  An active subglacial water system in West Antarctica mapped from space. Science. 315:1544-1548.   10.1126/science.1136897   AbstractWebsite

Satellite laser altimeter elevation profiles from 2003 to 2006 collected over the lower parts of Whillans and Mercer ice streams, West Antarctica, reveal 14 regions of temporally varying elevation, which we interpret as the surface expression of subglacial water movement. Vertical motion and spatial extent of two of the largest regions are confirmed by satellite image differencing. A major, previously unknown subglacial lake near the grounding line of Whillans Ice Stream is observed to drain 2.0 cubic kilometers of water into the ocean over similar to 3 years, while elsewhere a similar volume of water is being stored subglacially. These observations reveal a widespread, dynamic subglacial water system that may exert an important control on ice flow and mass balance.

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.

Walter, F, Amundson JM, O'Neel S, Truffer M, Fahnestock M, Fricker HA.  2012.  Analysis of low-frequency seismic signals generated during a multiple-iceberg calving event at Jakobshavn Isbrae, Greenland. Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface. 117   10.1029/2011jf002132   AbstractWebsite

We investigated seismic signals generated during a large-scale, multiple iceberg calving event that occurred at Jakobshavn Isbrae, Greenland, on 21 August 2009. The event was recorded by a high-rate time-lapse camera and five broadband seismic stations located within a few hundred kilometers of the terminus. During the event two full-glacier-thickness icebergs calved from the grounded (or nearly grounded) terminus and immediately capsized; the second iceberg to calve was two to three times smaller than the first. The individual calving and capsize events were well-correlated with the radiation of low-frequency seismic signals (<0.1 Hz) dominated by Love and Rayleigh waves. In agreement with regional records from previously published 'glacial earthquakes', these low-frequency seismic signals had maximum power and/or signal-to-noise ratios in the 0.05-0.1 Hz band. Similarly, full waveform inversions indicate that these signals were also generated by horizontal single forces acting at the glacier terminus. The signals therefore appear to be local manifestations of glacial earthquakes, although the magnitudes of the signals (twice-time integrated force histories) were considerably smaller than previously reported glacial earthquakes. We thus speculate that such earthquakes may be a common, if not pervasive, feature of all full-glacier-thickness calving events from grounded termini. Finally, a key result from our study is that waveform inversions performed on low-frequency, calving-generated seismic signals may have only limited ability to quantitatively estimate mass losses from calving. In particular, the choice of source time function has little impact on the inversion but dramatically changes the earthquake magnitude. Accordingly, in our analysis, it is unclear whether the smaller or larger of the two calving icebergs generated a larger seismic signal.

Pritchard, HD, Ligtenberg SRM, Fricker HA, Vaughan DG, van den Broeke MR, Padman L.  2012.  Antarctic ice-sheet loss driven by basal melting of ice shelves. Nature. 484:502-505.   10.1038/nature10968   AbstractWebsite

Accurate prediction of global sea-level rise requires that we understand the cause of recent, widespread and intensifying(1,2) glacier acceleration along Antarctic ice-sheet coastal margins(3). Atmospheric and oceanic forcing have the potential to reduce the thickness and extent of floating ice shelves, potentially limiting their ability to buttress the flow of grounded tributary glaciers(4). Indeed, recent ice-shelf collapse led to retreat and acceleration of several glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula(5). But the extent and magnitude of ice-shelf thickness change, the underlying causes of such change, and its link to glacier flow rate are so poorly understood that its future impact on the ice sheets cannot yet be predicted(3). Here we use satellite laser altimetry and modelling of the surface firn layer to reveal the circum-Antarctic pattern of ice-shelf thinning through increased basal melt. We deduce that this increased melt is the primary control of Antarctic ice-sheet loss, through a reduction in buttressing of the adjacent ice sheet leading to accelerated glacier flow(2). The highest thinning rates occur where warm water at depth can access thick ice shelves via submarine troughs crossing the continental shelf. Wind forcing could explain the dominant patterns of both basal melting and the surface melting and collapse of Antarctic ice shelves, through ocean upwelling in the Amundsen(6) and Bellingshausen(7) seas, and atmospheric warming on the Antarctic Peninsula(8). This implies that climate forcing through changing winds influences Antarctic ice-sheet mass balance, and hence global sea level, on annual to decadal timescales.

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, Borsa A, Minster B, Carabajal C, Quinn K, Bills B.  2005.  Assessment of ICESat performance at the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia. Geophysical Research Letters. 32   10.1029/2005gl023423   AbstractWebsite

The primary goal of the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) mission is ice sheet elevation change detection. Confirmation that ICESat is achieving its stated scientific requirement of detecting spatially-averaged changes as small as 1.5 cm/year requires continual assessment of ICESat-derived elevations throughout the mission. We use a GPS-derived digital elevation model (DEM) of the salar de Uyuni, Bolivia for this purpose. Using all twelve ICESat passes over the salar survey area acquired to date, we show that the accuracy of ICESat-derived elevations is impacted by environmental effects (e.g., forward scattering and surface reflectance) and instrument effects (e.g., pointing biases, detector saturation, and variations in transmitted laser energy). We estimate that under optimal conditions at the salar de Uyuni, ICESat-derived elevations have an absolute accuracy of <2 cm and precision of <3 cm.