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A
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.

Adusumilli, S, Fricker HA, Siegfried MR, Padman L, Paolo FS, Ligtenberg SRM.  2018.  Variable basal melt rates of Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves, 1994-2016. Geophysical Research Letters. 45:4086-4095.   10.1002/2017gl076652   AbstractWebsite

We have constructed 23-year (1994-2016) time series of Antarctic Peninsula (AP) ice-shelf height change using data from four satellite radar altimeters (ERS-1, ERS-2, Envisat, and CryoSat-2). Combining these time series with output from atmospheric and firn models, we partitioned the total height-change signal into contributions from varying surface mass balance, firn state, ice dynamics, and basal mass balance. On the Bellingshausen coast of the AP, ice shelves lost 84 +/- 34Gt a(-1) to basal melting, compared to contributions of 50 +/- 7 Gt a(-1) from surface mass balance and ice dynamics. Net basal melting on the Weddell coast was 51 +/- 71 Gt a(-1). Recent changes in ice-shelf height include increases over major AP ice shelves driven by changes in firn state. Basal melt rates near Bawden Ice Rise, a major pinning point of Larsen C Ice Shelf, showed large increases, potentially leading to substantial loss of buttressing if sustained.

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.

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.

B
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.

Bassis, JN, Coleman R, Fricker HA, Minster JB.  2005.  Episodic propagation of a rift on the Amery Ice Shelf, East Antarctica. Geophysical Research Letters. 32   10.1029/2004gl022048   AbstractWebsite

We investigate ice shelf rift propagation using a combination of GPS and seismic measurements near the tip of an active rift in the Amery Ice Shelf. These measurements reveal that propagation occurs in episodic bursts, which were identified based on swarms of seismicity accompanied by rapid rift widening. The bursts last approximately 4 hours and are separated by 10-24 days. In between bursts, the rift widens at a rate comparable to that of ice shelf spreading. Comparison of automatic weather station data and tidal amplitudes show that the propagation bursts are not directly triggered by winds or tides, suggesting that rift propagation is driven by the background glaciological stress in the ice shelf. We show that the ice debris that partly fills the rift may play a role in controlling the rate of propagation.

Bassis, JN, Fricker HA, Coleman R, Bock Y, Behrens J, Darnell D, Okal M, Minster JB.  2007.  Seismicity and deformation associated with ice-shelf rift propagation. Journal of Glaciology. 53:523-536.   10.3189/002214307784409207   AbstractWebsite

Previous observations have shown that rift propagation on the Amery Ice Shelf (AIS), East Antarctica, is episodic, occurring in bursts of several hours with typical recurrence times of several weeks. Propagation events were deduced from seismic swarms (detected with seismometers) concurrent with rapid rift widening (detected with GPS receivers). In this study, we extend these results by deploying seismometers and GPS receivers in a dense network around the tip of a propagating rift on the AIS over three field seasons (2002/03, 2004/05 and 2005/06). The pattern of seismic event locations shows that icequakes cluster along the rift axis, extending several kilometers back from where the rift tip was visible in the field. Patterns of icequake event locations also appear aligned with the ice-shelf flow direction, along transverse-to-rift crevasses. However, we found some key differences in the seismicity between field seasons. Both the number of swarms and the number of events within each swarm decreased during the final field season. The timing of the slowdown closely corresponds to the rift tip entering a suture zone, formed where two ice streams merge upstream. Beneath the suture zone lies a thick band of marine ice. We propose two hypotheses for the observed slowdown: (1) defects within the ice in the suture zone cause a reduction in stress concentration ahead of the rift tip; (2) increased marine ice thickness in the rift path slows propagation. We show that the size-frequency distribution of icequakes approximately follows a power law, similar to the well-known Gutenberg-Richter law for earthquakes. However, large icequakes are not preceded by foreshocks nor are they followed by aftershocks. Thus rift-related seismicity differs from the classic foreshock and aftershock distribution that is characteristic of large earth quakes.

Beem, LH, Tulaczyk SM, King MA, Bougamont M, Fricker HA, Christoffersen P.  2014.  Variable deceleration of Whillans Ice Stream, West Antarctica. Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface. 119:212-224.   10.1002/2013jf002958   AbstractWebsite

The Whillans Ice Stream Ice Plain (WIP) has been slowing since at least 1963. Prior constraints on this slowdown were consistent with a constant long-term deceleration rate. New observations of ice velocity from 11 continuous and 3 seasonal GPS sites indicate the deceleration rate varies through time including on interannual time scales. Between 2009 and 2012 WIP decelerated at a rate (6.1 to 10.9 2 m/yr(2)) that was double the multidecadal average (3.0 to 5.6 2 m/yr(2)). To identify the causes of slowdown, we used new and prior velocity estimates to constrain longitudinal and transverse force budget models as well as a higher-order inverse model. All model results support the conclusion that the observed deceleration of WIP is caused by an increase in basal resistance to motion at a rate of 10 to 40 Pa/yr. Subglacial processes that may be responsible for strengthening the ice stream bed include basal freeze on, changes in subglacial hydrology, or increases in the area of resistant basal substrate through differential erosion. The observed variability in WIP deceleration rate suggests that dynamics in subglacial hydrology, plausibly driven by basal freeze on and/or activity of subglacial lakes, plays a key role in modulating basal resistance to ice motion in the region.

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.

Borsa, AA, Fricker HA, Bills BG, Minster JB, Carabajal CC, Quinn KJ.  2007.  Topography of the salar de Uyuni, Bolivia from kinematic GPS. Geophysical Journal International. 172:31-40.   10.1111/j.1365-246X.2007.03604.x   AbstractWebsite

The salar de Uyuni in the Bolivian Andes is the largest salt flat on Earth, exhibiting less than 1 m of vertical relief over an area of 9000 km(2). We report on a kinematic Global Positioning System (GPS) survey of a 45-by-54 km area in the eastern salar, conducted in September 2002 to provide ground truth for the Ice Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) mission. GPS post-processing included corrections for long-period GPS noise that significantly improved survey accuracy. We fit corrected GPS trajectories with 2-D Fourier basis functions, from which we created a digital elevation model (DEM) of the surface whose absolute accuracy we estimate to be at least 2.2 cm RMSE. With over two magnitudes better vertical resolution than the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission data, this DEM reveals decimetre-level topography that is completely absent in other topographic data sets. Longer wavelengths in the DEM correlate well with mapped gravity, suggesting a connection between broad-scale salar topography and the geoid similar to that seen over the oceans.

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.

Borsa, AA, Moholdt G, Fricker HA, Brunt KM.  2014.  A range correction for ICESat and its potential impact on ice-sheet mass balance studies. The Cryosphere. 8:345-357.: Copernicus Publications   10.5194/tc-8-345-2014   AbstractWebsite

We report on a previously undocumented range error in NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) that degrades elevation precision and introduces a small but significant elevation trend over the ICESat mission period. This range error (the Gaussian-Centroid or "G-C" offset) varies on a shot-to-shot basis and exhibits increasing scatter when laser transmit energies fall below 20 mJ. Although the G-C offset is uncorrelated over periods ≤ 1 day, it evolves over the life of each of ICESat's three lasers in a series of ramps and jumps that give rise to spurious elevation trends of −0.92 to −1.90 cm yr−1, depending on the time period considered. Using ICESat data over the Ross and Filchner–Ronne ice shelves we show that (1) the G-C offset introduces significant biases in ice-shelf mass balance estimates, and (2) the mass balance bias can vary between regions because of different temporal samplings of ICESat. We can reproduce the effect of the G-C offset over these two ice shelves by fitting trends to sample-weighted mean G-C offsets for each campaign, suggesting that it may not be necessary to fully repeat earlier ICESat studies to determine the impact of the G-C offset on ice-sheet mass balance estimates.

Bougamont, M, Christoffersen P, Price SF, Fricker HA, Tulaczyk S, Carter SP.  2015.  Reactivation of Kamb Ice Stream tributaries triggers century-scale reorganization of Siple Coast ice flow in West Antarctica. Geophysical Research Letters. 42:8471-8480.   10.1002/2015gl065782   AbstractWebsite

Ongoing, centennial-scale flow variability within the Ross ice streams of West Antarctica suggests that the present-day positive mass balance in this region may reverse in the future. Here we use a three-dimensional ice sheet model to simulate ice flow in this region over 250years. The flow responds to changing basal properties, as a subglacial till layer interacts with water transported in an active subglacial hydrological system. We show that a persistent weak bed beneath the tributaries of the dormant Kamb Ice Stream is a source of internal ice flow instability, which reorganizes all ice streams in this region, leading to a reduced (positive) mass balance within decades and a net loss of ice within two centuries. This hitherto unaccounted for flow variability could raise sea level by 5mm this century. Better constraints on future sea level change from this region will require improved estimates of geothermal heat flux and subglacial water transport.

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.

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.

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.

C
Carter, SP, Fricker HA, Blankenship DD, Johnson JV, Lipscomb WH, Price SF, Young DA.  2011.  Modeling 5 years of subglacial lake activity in the MacAyeal Ice Stream (Antarctica) catchment through assimilation of ICESat laser altimetry. Journal of Glaciology. 57:1098-1112. AbstractWebsite

Subglacial lakes beneath Antarctica's fast-moving ice streams are known to undergo similar to 1 km(3) volume changes on annual timescales. Focusing on the MacAyeal Ice Stream (MacIS) lake system, we create a simple model for the response of subglacial water distribution to lake discharge events through assimilation of lake volume changes estimated from Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) laser altimetry. We construct a steady-state water transport model in which known subglacial lakes are treated as either sinks or sources depending on the ICESat-derived filling or draining rates. The modeled volume change rates of five large subglacial lakes in the downstream portion of MacIS are shown to be consistent with observed filling rates if the dynamics of all upstream lakes are considered. However, the variable filling rate of the northernmost lake suggests the presence of an undetected lake of similar size upstream. Overall, we show that, for this fast-flowing ice stream, most subglacial lakes receive >90% of their water from distant distributed sources throughout the catchment, and we confirm that water is transported from regions of net basal melt to regions of net basal freezing. Our study provides a geophysically based means of validating subglacial water models in Antarctica and is a potential way to parameterize subglacial lake discharge events in large-scale ice-sheet models where adequate data are available.

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.

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.

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.

Chen, X, Shearer PM, Walter F, Fricker HA.  2011.  Seventeen Antarctic seismic events detected by global surface waves and a possible link to calving events from satellite images. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 116   10.1029/2011jb008262   AbstractWebsite

We detect 17 seismic events in Antarctica from 1997 to 2009 by applying a surface wave detector to global seismic data. We locate these events using a waveform cross-correlation method and find that most occurred near the coast of Antarctica and are clustered in three regions: four events are on the Ronne Ice Shelf, close to the location of a 1998 calving event; five events are near the Vanderford Glacier; and eight events are near the Ninnis Glacier. The observed Rayleigh and Love waves for these events have similar amplitudes and a two-lobed radiation pattern, matching the expected amplitude behavior of a single-force source model. Using such a model, we obtain best fitting horizontal force directions for the 14 events that have relatively better signal-to-noise ratios. Analysis of coastline changes from MODIS images before and after the detected events show that two events on Vanderford Glacier and one event near Ninnis Glacier are likely associated with calving events. Moreover, the inferred force directions for the seismic events appear consistent with local ice flow directions. Both satellite observations and modeling results strongly suggest a link between seismic events and calving processes in the two regions. However, the force directions on the Ronne Ice Shelf are aligned with observed rift propagation directions, suggesting that these events may arise from rifting processes.

Christoffersen, P, Bougamont M, Carter SP, Fricker HA, Tulaczyk S.  2014.  Significant groundwater contribution to Antarctic ice streams hydrologic budget. Geophysical Research Letters. 41:2003-2010.   10.1002/2014gl059250   AbstractWebsite

Satellite observations have revealed active hydrologic systems beneath Antarctic ice streams, but sources and sinks of water within these systems are uncertain. Here we use numerical simulations of ice streams to estimate the generation, flux, and budget of water beneath five ice streams on the Siple Coast. We estimate that 47% of the total hydrologic input (0.98km(3)yr(-1)) to Whillans (WIS), Mercer (MIS), and Kamb (KIS) ice streams comes from the ice sheet interior and that only 8% forms by local basal melting. The remaining 45% comes from a groundwater reservoir, an overlooked source in which depletion significantly exceeds recharge. Of the total input to Bindschadler (BIS) and MacAyeal (MacIS) ice streams (0.56km(3)yr(-1)), 72% comes from the interior, 19% from groundwater, and 9% from local melting. This contrasting hydrologic setting modulates the ice streams flow and has important implications for the search for life in subglacial lakes.

Craven, M, Allison I, Fricker HA, Warner R.  2009.  Properties of a marine ice layer under the Amery Ice Shelf, East Antarctica. Journal of Glaciology. 55:717-728. AbstractWebsite

The Amery Ice Shelf, East Antarctica, undergoes high basal melt rates near the southern limit of its grounding line where 80% of the ice melts within 240 km of becoming afloat. A considerable portion of this later refreezes downstream as marine ice. This produces a marine ice layer up to 200 m thick in the northwest sector of the ice shelf concentrated in a pair of longitudinal bands that extend some 200 km all the way to the calving front. We drilled through the eastern marine ice band at two locations 70 km apart on the same flowline. We determine an average accretion rate of marine ice of 1.1 +/- 0.2 m a(-1), at a reference density of 920 kg m(-3) between borehole sites, and infer a similar average rate of 1.3 +/- 0.2 m a(-1) upstream. The deeper marine ice was permeable enough that a hydraulic connection was made whilst the drill was still 70-100 m above the ice-shelf base. Below this marine close-off depth, borehole video imagery showed permeable ice with water-filled cavities and individual ice platelets fused together, while the upper marine ice was impermeable with small brine-cell inclusions. We infer that the uppermost portion of the permeable ice becomes impermeable with the passage of time and as more marine ice is accreted on the base of the shelf. We estimate an average closure rate of 0.3 m a(-1) between the borehole sites; upstream the average closure rate is faster at 0.9 m a(-1). We estimate an average porosity of the total marine ice layer of 14-20%, such that the deeper ice must have even higher values. High permeability implies that sea water can move relatively freely through the material, and we propose that where such marine ice exists this renders deep parts of the ice shelf particularly vulnerable to changes in ocean properties.

Cudlip, W, Phillips HA, Kearsley AHW.  1995.  The Use of Reference Surfaces to Determine Repeat-Orbit Variability in Satellite Altimetry. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing. 61:881-890. AbstractWebsite

Two alternative techniques for estimating the variability of the radial orbit error for collinear tracks are investigated using Geosat altimeter data. The first uses sinusoidal fitting to ocean height differences around an orbit, and the second uses relatively flat areas of land (in the Simpson Desert, Australia, and the Antarctic Plateau). Using a non-ocean surface requires knowledge of the local surface slope, and we obtain this through the fitting of a plane to the set of repeat height measurements. The difference in the relative-orbit-error estimates from the two techniques is 12 cm root-mean-square (RMS), from which we conclude that relative orbit error can be reduced to less than 9 cm using ocean fitting, and to between 9 and 12 cm using land fitting. The Antarctic plateau could not be used as a reference as the orbit error appeared correlated with the cross-track displacement of repeat tracks, preventing the determination of the local surface slope. The land analysis was also Limited by lack of waveform data and Geosat off-pointing; current altimeter missions (e.g., ERS-1 and Topex/Poseidon) should be able to achieve higher accuracies.

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Damsgaard, A, Suckale J, Piotrowski JA, Houssais M, Siegfried MR, Fricker HA.  2017.  Sediment behavior controls equilibrium width of subglacial channels. Journal of Glaciology. 63:1034-1048.   10.1017/jog.2017.71   AbstractWebsite

Flow-frictional resistance at the base of glaciers and ice sheets is strongly linked to subglacial water pressure. Understanding the physical mechanisms that govern meltwater fluxes in subglacial channels is hence critical for constraining variations in ice flow. Previous mathematical descriptions of soft-bed subglacial channels assume a viscous till rheology, which is inconsistent with laboratory data and the majority of field studies. Here, we use a grain-scale numerical formulation coupled to pore-water dynamics to analyze the structural stability of channels carved into soft beds. Contrary to the soft-bed channel models assuming viscous till rheology, we show that the flanks of till channels can support substantial ice loads without creep closure of the channel, because the sediment has finite frictional strength. Increased normal stress on the channel flanks causes plastic failure of the sediment, and the channel rapidly shrinks to increase the ice-bed contact area. We derive a new parameterization for subglacial channelized flow on soft beds and show that channel dynamics are dominated by fluvial erosion and deposition processes with thresholds linked to the plastic rheology of subglacial tills. We infer that the described limits to channel size may cause subglacial drainage to arrange in networks of multiple closely spaced channels.