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Allison, I, Alley RB, Fricker HA, Thomas RH, Warner RC.  2009.  Ice sheet mass balance and sea level. Antarctic Science. 21:413-426.   10.1017/s0954102009990137   AbstractWebsite

Determining the mass balance of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets (GIS and AIS) has long been a major challenge for polar science. But until recent advances in measurement technology, the uncertainty in ice sheet mass balance estimates was greater than any net contribution to sea level change. The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (AR4) was able, for the first time, to conclude that, taken together, the GIS and AIS have probably been contributing to sea level rise over the period 1993-2003 at an average rate estimated at 0.4 nine yr(-1). Since the cut-off date for work included in AR4, a number of further studies of the mass balance of GIS and AIS have been made using satellite altimetry, satellite gravity measurements and estimates of mass influx and discharge using a variety of techniques. Overall, these studies reinforce the conclusion that the ice sheets are contributing to present sea level rise, and suggest that the rate of loss from GIS has recently increased. The largest unknown in the projections of sea level rise over the next century is the potential for rapid dynamic collapse of ice sheets.

Scambos, T, Fricker HA, Liu CC, Bohlander J, Fastook J, Sargent A, Massom R, Wu AM.  2009.  Ice shelf disintegration by plate bending and hydro-fracture: Satellite observations and model results of the 2008 Wilkins ice shelf break-ups. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 280:51-60.   10.1016/j.epsl.2008.12.027   AbstractWebsite

Satellite remote sensing observations of three break-up events in 2008 for the Wilkins Ice Shelf (28 February to 6 March, 27 May to 31 May, and 28 June to mid-July) provide unprecedented detail of ice shelf calving during rapid break-up. The observations reveal that the Wilkins break-ups occur through a distinctive type of shelf calving, which we term 'disintegration', as well as more typical rifting and calving. Here we focus on the disintegration process, which is characterized by repeated rapid fracturing that creates narrow ice-edge-parallel blocks, with subsequent block toppling and fragmentation forming an expanding iceberg and ice rubble mass. We use these data to develop and test a model of floating ice plate disintegration in which ice plate bending stresses at the ice front arising from buoyancy forces can lead to runaway calving when free (mobile) water is available. High-resolution satellite images and laser altimetry of the first break-up event provide details of fracture spacings, ice thicknesses, and plate bending profiles that agree well with our model predictions. We suggest that surface or near-surface meltwater is the main pre-condition for disintegration, and that hydro-fracture is the main mechanism. Brine layers from near-waterline brine infiltration can support a similar process, but this is less effective unless regional ice stress patterns contribute to the net stress available at the crack tip for fracturing. A combination of brine-enhanced fracturing and changing internal net extensional stresses was the likely mechanism behind the latter two Wilkins events. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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.

Markus, T, Neumann T, Martino A, Abdalati W, Brunt K, Csatho B, Farrell S, Fricker H, Gardner A, Harding D, Jasinski M, Kwok R, Magruder L, Lubin D, Luthcke S, Morison J, Nelson R, Neuenschwander A, Palm S, Popescu S, Shum CK, Schutz BE, Smith B, Yang YK, Zwally J.  2017.  The Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2): Science requirements, concept, and implementation. Remote Sensing of Environment. 190:260-273.   10.1016/j.rse.2016.12.029   AbstractWebsite

The Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) mission used laser altimetry measurements to determine changes in elevations of glaciers and ice sheets, as well as sea ice thickness distribution. These measurements have provided important information on the response of the cryopshere (Earth's frozen surfaces) to changes in atmosphere and ocean condition. ICESat operated from 2003 to 2009 and provided repeat altimetry measurements not only to the cryosphere scientific community but also to the ocean, terrestrial and atmospheric scientific communities. The conclusive assessment of significant ongoing rapid changes in the Earth's ice cover, in part supported by ICESat observations, has strengthened the need for sustained, high accuracy, repeat observations similar to what was provided by the ICESat mission. Following recommendations from the National Research Council for an ICESat follow-on mission, the ICESat-2 mission is now under development for planned launch in 2018. The primary scientific aims of the ICESat-2 mission are to continue measurements of sea ice freeboard and ice sheet elevation to determine their changes at scales from outlet glaciers to the entire ice sheet, and from 105 of meters to the entire polar oceans for sea ice freeboard. ICESat carried a single beam profiling laser altimeter that produced similar to 70 m diameter footprints on the surface of the Earth at similar to 150 m along-track intervals. In contrast, ICESat-2 will operate with three pairs of beams, each pair separated by about 3 km cross-track with a pair spacing of 90 m. Each of the beams will have a nominal 17 m diameter footprint with an along -track sampling interval of 0.7 m. The differences in the ICESat-2 measurement concept are a result of overcoming some limitations associated with the approach used in the ICESat mission. The beam pair configuration of ICESat-2 allows for the determination of local cross -track slope, a significant factor in measuring elevation change for the outlet glaciers surrounding the Greenland and Antarctica coasts. The multiple beam pairs also provide improved spatial coverage. The dense spatial sampling eliminates along -track measurement gaps, and the small footprint diameter is especially useful for sea surface height measurements in the often narrow leads needed for sea ice freeboard and ice thickness retrievals. The ICESat-2 instrumentation concept uses a low energy 532 nm (green) laser in conjunction with single-photon sensitive detectors to measure range. Combining ICESat-2 data with altimetry data collected since the start of the ICESat mission in 2003, such as Operation IceBridge and ESA's CryoSat-2, will yield a 15+ year record of changes in ice sheet elevation and sea ice thickness. ICESat-2 will also provide information of mountain glacier and ice cap elevations changes, land and vegetation heights, inland water elevations, sea surface heights, and cloud layering and optical thickness. Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY license

Walter, F, O'Neel S, McNamara D, Pfeffer WT, Bassis JN, Fricker HA.  2010.  Iceberg calving during transition from grounded to floating ice: Columbia Glacier, Alaska. Geophysical Research Letters. 37   10.1029/2010gl043201   AbstractWebsite

The terminus of Columbia Glacier, Alaska, unexpectedly became ungrounded in 2007 during its prolonged retreat. Visual observations showed that calving changed from a steady release of low-volume bergs, to episodic flow-perpendicular rifting, propagation, and release of very large icebergs - a style reminiscent of calving from ice shelves. Here, we compare passive seismic and photographic observations through this transition to examine changes in calving. Mechanical changes accompany the visible changes in calving style post flotation: generation of seismic energy during calving is substantially reduced. We propose this is partly due to changes in source processes. Citation: Walter, F., S. O'Neel, D. McNamara, W. T. Pfeffer, J. N. Bassis, and H. A. Fricker (2010), Iceberg calving during transition from grounded to floating ice: Columbia Glacier, Alaska, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L15501, doi:10.1029/2010GL043201.

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.

Shuman, CA, Zwally HJ, Schutz BE, Brenner AC, DiMarzio JP, Suchdeo VP, Fricker HA.  2006.  ICESat Antarctic elevation data: Preliminary precision and accuracy assessment. Geophysical Research Letters. 33   10.1029/2005gl025227   AbstractWebsite

Since 'first light' on February 20th, 2003, NASA's Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) has derived surface elevations from similar to 86 degrees N to 86 degrees S latitude. These unique altimetry data have been acquired in a series of observation periods in repeated track patterns using all three Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) lasers. Here, we focus on Antarctic ice sheet elevation data that were obtained in 2003-2004. We present preliminary precision and accuracy assessments of selected elevation data, and discuss factors impacting elevation change detection. We show that for low slope and clear sky conditions, the precision of GLA12 Laser 2a, Release 21 data is similar to 2.1 cm and the relative accuracy of ICESat elevations is +/- 14 cm based on crossover differences.

Fricker, HA, Bassis JN, Minster B, MacAyeal DR.  2005.  ICESat's new perspective on ice shelf rifts: The vertical dimension. Geophysical Research Letters. 32   10.1029/2005gl025070   AbstractWebsite

The small footprint (similar to 70 m) and similar to 172 m along-track spacing of the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) on the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) provides unprecedented horizontal resolution for a satellite altimeter. This enables ICESat to map many previously unresolved features on ice shelves, such as crevasses, rifts, grounding zones and ice fronts. We present examples of ICESat-derived elevation data showing topography over rifts on the Amery and Ross ice shelves, widths of rifts and as estimates of the thickness of melange (a collection of ice and snow trapped inside the rifts). We show that melange thickness remains constant over the ICESat data period and tends to be thicker in older rifts. We validate the ICESat-derived melange depth estimate with an in situ measurement on the Ross Ice Shelf.

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.

Sun, XL, Abshire JB, Borsa AA, Fricker HA, Yi DH, DiMarzio JP, Paolo FS, Brunt KM, Harding DJ, Neumann GA.  2017.  ICESAT/GLAS Altimetry Measurements: Received Signal Dynamic Range and Saturation Correction. Ieee Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing. 55:5440-5454.   10.1109/tgrs.2017.2702126   AbstractWebsite

NASA's Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat), which operated between 2003 and 2009, made the first satellite-based global lidar measurement of earth's ice sheet elevations, sea-ice thickness, and vegetation canopy structure. The primary instrument on ICESat was the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS), which measured the distance from the spacecraft to the earth's surface via the roundtrip travel time of individual laser pulses. GLAS utilized pulsed lasers and a direct detection receiver consisting of a silicon avalanche photodiode and a waveform digitizer. Early in the mission, the peak power of the received signal from snow and ice surfaces was found to span a wider dynamic range than anticipated, often exceeding the linear dynamic range of the GLAS 1064-nm detector assembly. The resulting saturation of the receiver distorted the recorded signal and resulted in range biases as large as similar to 50 cm for ice-and snow-covered surfaces. We developed a correction for this "saturation range bias" based on laboratory tests using a spare flight detector, and refined the correction by comparing GLAS elevation estimates with those derived from Global Positioning System surveys over the calibration site at the salar de Uyuni, Bolivia. Applying the saturation correction largely eliminated the range bias due to receiver saturation for affected ICESat measurements over Uyuni and significantly reduced the discrepancies at orbit crossovers located on flat regions of the Antarctic ice sheet.

Mueller, RD, Padman L, Dinniman MS, Erofeeva SY, Fricker HA, King MA.  2012.  Impact of tide-topography interactions on basal melting of Larsen C Ice Shelf, Antarctica. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 117   10.1029/2011jc007263   AbstractWebsite

Basal melting of ice shelves around Antarctica contributes to formation of Antarctic Bottom Water and can affect global sea level by altering the offshore flow of grounded ice streams and glaciers. Tides influence ice shelf basal melt rate (w(b)) by contributing to ocean mixing and mean circulation as well as thermohaline exchanges with the ice shelf. We use a three-dimensional ocean model, thermodynamically coupled to a nonevolving ice shelf, to investigate the relationship between topography, tides, and w(b) for Larsen C Ice Shelf (LCIS) in the northwestern Weddell Sea, Antarctica. Using our best estimates of ice shelf thickness and seabed topography, we find that the largest modeled LCIS melt rates occur in the northeast, where our model predicts strong diurnal tidal currents (similar to 0.4 m s(-1)). This distribution is significantly different from models with no tidal forcing, which predict largest melt rates along the deep grounding lines. We compare several model runs to explore melt rate sensitivity to geometry, initial ocean potential temperature (theta(0)), thermodynamic parameterizations of heat and freshwater ice-ocean exchange, and tidal forcing. The resulting range of LCIS-averaged w(b) is similar to 0.11-0.44 m a(-1). The spatial distribution of w(b) is very sensitive to model geometry and thermodynamic parameterization while the overall magnitude of w(b) is influenced by theta(0). These sensitivities in w(b) predictions reinforce a need for high-resolution maps of ice draft and sub-ice-shelf seabed topography together with ocean temperature measurements at the ice shelf front to improve representation of ice shelves in coupled climate system models.

Alley, KE, Scambos TA, Siegfried MR, Fricker HA.  2016.  Impacts of warm water on Antarctic ice shelf stability through basal channel formation. Nature Geosci. advance online publication: Nature Publishing Group   10.1038/ngeo2675   Abstract

Antarctica’s ice shelves provide resistance to the flow of grounded ice towards the ocean. If this resistance is decreased as a result of ice shelf thinning or disintegration1, acceleration of grounded ice can occur, increasing rates of sea-level rise. Loss of ice shelf mass is accelerating, especially in West Antarctica, where warm seawater is reaching ocean cavities beneath ice shelves2. Here we use satellite imagery, airborne ice-penetrating radar and satellite laser altimetry spanning the period from 2002 to 2014 to map extensive basal channels in the ice shelves surrounding Antarctica. The highest density of basal channels is found in West Antarctic ice shelves. Within the channels, warm water flows northwards, eroding the ice shelf base and driving channel evolution on annual to decadal timescales. Our observations show that basal channels are associated with the development of new zones of crevassing, suggesting that these channels may cause ice fracture. We conclude that basal channels can form and grow quickly as a result of warm ocean water intrusion, and that they can structurally weaken ice shelves, potentially leading to rapid ice shelf loss in some areas.

Padman, L, Erofeeva SY, Fricker HA.  2008.  Improving Antarctic tide models by assimilation of ICESat laser altimetry over ice shelves. Geophysical Research Letters. 35   10.1029/2008gl035592   AbstractWebsite

Assimilation of laser altimeter data from the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) significantly improves the accuracy of ocean tide models for the Ross Ice Shelf (RIS). For the most energetic tidal harmonic, K(1), assimilation reduces the root-mean-square error (RMSE) between the model and a set of 16 independent tide records on and near the RIS from 6.0 to 2.8 cm, and the combined RMSE for the six most energetic tidal harmonics from 7.7 to 5.4 cm. When only the six most recent and highest-quality tide records are considered, the combined RMSE is 4.8 cm. This value is close to the uncertainty expected from tidal analyses of the short (similar to 1-2 month) validation records, indicating that assessing further improvements in tide model accuracy will require development of a higher quality validation data set. Citation: Padman, L., S. Y. Erofeeva, and H. A. Fricker (2008), Improving Antarctic tide models by assimilation of ICESat laser altimetry over ice shelves, Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L22504, doi:10.1029/2008GL035592.

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.

Smith, BE, Fricker HA, Joughin IR, Tulaczyk S.  2009.  An inventory of active subglacial lakes in Antarctica detected by ICESat (2003-2008). Journal of Glaciology. 55:573-595. AbstractWebsite

Through the detection of surface deformation in response to water movement, recent satellite studies have demonstrated the existence of subglacial lakes in Antarctica that fill and drain on timescales of months to years. These studies, however, were confined to specific regions of the ice sheet. Here we present the first comprehensive study of these 'active' lakes for the Antarctic ice sheet north of 86 degrees S, based on 4.5 years (2003-08) of NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) laser altimeter data. Our analysis has detected 124 lakes that were active during this period, and we estimate volume changes for each lake. The ICESat-detected lakes are prevalent in coastal Antarctica, and are present under most of the largest ice-stream catchments. Lakes sometimes appear to transfer water from one to another, but also often exchange water with distributed sources undetectable by ICESat, suggesting that the lakes may provide water to or withdraw water from the hydrologic systems that lubricate glacier flow. Thus, these reservoirs may contribute pulses of water to produce rapid temporal changes in glacier speeds, but also may withdraw water at other times to slow flow.

Bassis, JN, Fricker HA, Coleman R, Minster JB.  2008.  An investigation into the forces that drive ice-shelf rift propagation on the Amery Ice Shelf, East Antarctica. Journal of Glaciology. 54:17-27.   10.3189/002214308784409116   AbstractWebsite

For three field seasons (2002/03, 2004/05, 2005/06) we have deployed a network of GPS receivers and seismometers around the tip of a propagating rift on the Amery Ice Shelf, East Antarctica. During these campaigns we detected seven bursts of episodic rift propagation. To determine whether these rift propagation events were triggered by short-term environmental forcings, we analyzed simultaneous ancillary data such as wind speeds, tidal amplitudes and sea-ice fraction (a proxy variable for ocean swell). We find that none of these environmental forcings, separately or together, correlated with rift propagation. This apparent insensitivity of ice-shelf rift propagation to short-term environmental forcings leads us to suggest that the rifting process is primarily driven by the internal glaciological stress. Our hypothesis is supported by order-of-magnitude calculations that the glaciological stress is the dominant term in the force balance. However, our calculations also indicate that as the ice shelf thins or the rift system matures and iceberg detachment becomes imminent, short-term stresses due to winds and ocean swell may become more important.