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This paper presents the bed topography of Jakobshavn Isbræ, Greenland, and Byrd Glacier, Antarctica, derived from sounding these glaciers with high-sensitivity radars. To understand the processes causing the speed-up and retreat of outlet glaciers, and to enable the development of next-generation ice-sheet models, we need information on bed topography and basal conditions. To this end, we performed measurements with the progressively improved Multichannel Coherent Radar Depth Sounder/Imager (MCoRDS/I). We processed the data from each antenna-array element using synthetic aperture radar algorithms to improve radar sensitivity and reduce along-track surface clutter. We then applied array and image-processing algorithms to extract the weak bed echoes buried in off-vertical scatter (cross-track surface clutter). At Jakobshavn Isbræ, we observed 2.7 km thick ice ~30 km upstream of the calving front and ~850 m thick ice at the calving front. We also observed echoes from multiple interfaces near the bed. We applied the MUSIC algorithm to the data to derive the direction of arrival of the signals. This analysis revealed that clutter is dominated by the ice surface at Jakobshavn Isbræ. At Byrd Glacier, we found ~3.62 km thick ice, as well as a subglacial trench ~3.05 km below sea level. We used ice thickness information derived from radar data in conjunction with surface elevation data to generate bed maps for these two critical glaciers. The performance of current radars must be improved further by ~15 dB to fully sound the deepest part of Byrd Glacier. Unmanned aerial systems equipped with radars that can be flown over lines spaced as close as 5 m apart in the cross-track direction to synthesize a two-dimensional aperture would be ideal for collecting fine-resolution data over glaciers like Jakobshavn near their grounding lines.
Our objective is to map dynamic provinces and investigate dynamic changes in Jakobshavn Isbræ, Greenland. We use an approach that combines structural glaciology and remote-sensing data analysis, facilitated by mathematical characterization of generalized spatial surface roughness that provides parameters related to ice dynamics, deformation and interaction of the ice with bed topography. The approach is applied to derive time series of elevation and roughness changes and to attribute changes during rapid retreat. Different dynamic types of fast- and slow-moving ice can be mapped from ICESat Geoscience Laser Altimeter System data (2003–09) and Airborne Topographic Mapper data, using spatial roughness characterization, validated with ASTER and bed-topographic data. Results of comparative analysis of elevation changes and roughness changes of Jakobshavn south ice stream indicate (1) surface lowering of 10–15 m a-1 between 2004 and 2009 and (2) no change in surface roughness and dynamic types. These findings are consistent with a front retreat as part of a fjord-glacier cycle or following warming of fjord water and with climatic warming, but not with an internal dynamic acceleration as a cause of the observed changes during rapid retreat. Relationships to changes in basal water pressure are discussed. All glaciodynamic changes appear to have initiated near the front and propagated up-glacier.
Radio-echo sounding (RES) is a radar technique widely employed in Antarctica and Greenland to define bedrock topography but, over the last decade, it has also played an important role in subglacial lake exploration and hydrogeological studies at the bedrock/ice interface. In recent studies, bedrock characterization has been improved through analysis of radar power echoes to evaluate the electromagnetic (EM) properties of the interface and allow the distinction between wet and dry interfaces. The RES received signal power depends on ice absorption and bedrock reflectivity, which is closely linked to the specific physical condition of the bedrock. In this paper, an evaluation of EM ice absorption was conducted starting from RES measurements collected over subglacial lakes in Antarctica. The idea was to calculate ice absorption starting from the radar equation in the case of subglacial lakes, where the EM reflectivity value is considered a known constant. These values were compared with those obtained from analysis of ice-core dielectric profiles from EPICA ice-core drilling data. Our analysis reveals that the ice absorption rate calculated from RES measurements has an average value of 7.2 dB km−1, and it appears constant, independent of the subglacial lake depth in different zones of the Dome C area.
We present a diagnostic glacier flowline model parameterized and constrained by new velocity data from ice-surface GPS installations and speckle tracking of TerraSAR-X satellite images, newly acquired airborne-radar data, and continental gridded datasets of topography and geothermal heat flux, in order to better understand two outlet glaciers of the East Antarctic ice sheet. Our observational data are employed as primary inputs to a modelling procedure that first calculates the basal thermal regime of each glacier, then iterates the basal sliding coefficient and deformation rate parameter until the fit of simulated to observed surface velocities is optimized. We find that the two glaciers have both frozen and thawed areas at their beds, facilitating partial sliding. Glacier flow arises from a balance between sliding and deformation that fluctuates along the length of each glacier, with the amount of sliding typically varying by up to two orders of magnitude but with deformation rates far more constant. Beardmore Glacier is warmer and faster-flowing than Skelton Glacier, but an up-glacier deepening bed at the grounding line, coupled with ice thicknesses close to flotation, lead us to infer a greater vulnerability of Skelton Glacier to grounding-line recession if affected by ocean-forced thinning and concomitant acceleration.
Assessment of the sensitivity of surface mass balance and equilibrium-line altitude (ELA) to climate change is crucial for simulating the future evolution of glaciers. Such an assessment has been carried out using an extensive dataset comprising numerous measurements of snow accumulation and snow and ice ablation made on four French glaciers over the past 16 years. Winter mass balance shows a complicated pattern with respect to altitude, with no clear linear relationship. Although the ratios of winter mass balance to valley precipitation differ considerably from site to site, they are relatively constant over time. Relationships between snow/ice ablation and temperature are stable, with no link with altitude. The mean snow and ice positive degree-day (PDD) factors are 0.003 and 0.0061 m w.e. °C−1 d−1. This analysis shows that, at a given site, ablation depends mainly on the amount of snow precipitation and on cumulative PDDs. The sensitivity of annual ablation to temperature change increases almost linearly from 0.25 m w.e. °C−1 at 3500 m to 1.55 m w.e. °C−1 at 1650 m. ELA sensitivity to temperature change was found to range from 50 to 85 m °C−1.
Numerous studies have confirmed the rapid retreat of Tibetan Plateau glaciers in recent decades, and resulting reductions in glacier volume. However, high-resolution determinations of the changes in glacier thickness remain sparse. This paper presents results based on differential GPS measurements to accurately measure glacier thickness change over the past few years. Measurements from the lower part of Gurenhekou glacier show an average thickness change of –3.82 m over a 4 year period. On the lower part of Kangwure glacier we measured an average thickness change of –2.70 m over 3 years. On the upper part of Naimona’Nyi glacier (northern branch), western Himalaya, thickness changed by –1.34 m on average between 2008 and 2010, and –0.87 m between 2010 and 2013. Large temporal changes in thinning rates were found on Naimona’Nyi glacier, due to variations in local precipitation. Our measurements also show variable changes in glacier thickness over different parts of each glacier, with little dependence on elevation. The limited data also show glacier thinning in the accumulation zone.
Knowledge of the spatial snow distribution and its interannual persistence is of interest for a broad spectrum of issues in cryospheric sciences. In this study, snow depths derived from airborne laser scanning are analyzed for interannual persistence of the seasonal snow cover in a partly glacierized mountain area (~36 km2). At the end of five accumulation periods, the snow-covered area varied by 16% of its temporal mean. Mean snow depth of the total area ranged by a factor of two (1.31–2.58 m), with a standard deviation of 0.42 m. Interannual correlation coefficients of snow depth distribution were in the range 0.68–0.84. Of the investigated area, 75% was found to be interannually persistent. The remaining area showed variable snow cover from year to year, caused by occasional avalanches and changes in surface topography as a result of glacier retreat. Snow cover underwent a change from a homogeneous distribution on the former glacier surface to a more heterogeneous snow cover in the recently deglaciated terrain. A geostatistical analysis shows interannual persistence in scaling behavior of snow depth in ice-free terrain with scale break distances at 20 m. Scale-invariant behavior of snow depth is indicated over >100 m on smooth glacier surfaces.
Densification of firn at the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling (NEEM) camp is investigated using density surrogates: dielectric permittivities ∊v and ∊h at microwave frequencies with electrical fields in the vertical and horizontal planes, respectively. Dielectric anisotropy Δ∊ (= ∊v − ∊h) is then examined as a surrogate for the anisotropic geometry of firn. Its size, fluctuations and mutual correlations are investigated in samples taken at depths from the surface to ~90 m. The initial Δ∊ of ~0.06 appears within the uppermost 0.2 m. After that, Δ∊ decreases rapidly until 21–26 m depth. Below this, Δɛ decreases slowly. Layers with more ions of fluorine, chlorine and some cations deposited between the autumn and the subsequent summer deform preferentially during all these stages. This layered deformation is explained partly by the textural effects initially formed by the seasonal variation of metamorphism, and partly by ions such as fluorine, chlorine and ammonium, which are known to modulate dislocation movement in the ice crystal lattice. Insolation-sensitive microstructure appears to be preserved all the way to the pore close-off, within layers of the summer-to-autumn metamorphism. Like previous authors, we hypothesize that calcium is not the active agent in the reported deformation– calcium correlations.
Estimating a glacier’s volume by inferring properties at depth (e.g. bed topography or basal slip) from properties observed at the surface (e.g. area and slope) creates a calculation instability that grows exponentially with the size of the glacier. Random errors from this inversion instability can overwhelm all other sources of error and can corrupt thickness and volume calculations, unless problematic short spatial wavelengths are specifically excluded. Volume/area scaling inherently filters these short wavelengths and automatically eliminates the instability, while numerical inversions can also give stable solutions by filtering the correct wavelengths explicitly, as is frequently done when ‘regularizing’ a model. Each of the scaling and numerical techniques has applications to which it is better suited, and there are trade-offs in resolution and accuracy; but when calculating volume, neither the modeling nor the scaling approach offers a fundamental advantage over the other. Both are significantly limited by the inherently ‘ill-posed’ inversion, and even though both provide stable volume solutions, neither can give unique solutions.
This paper describes a new, environmentally friendly drilling technique for making short-and long-term access boreholes in shelf glaciers using lightweight drills. The new drilling technique was successfully developed for installation of small-diameter sensors under the Ross Ice Shelf through ~ 193 m thick ice at Windless Bight, McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica. The two access boreholes were drilled and sensors installed in 110 working hours. The total weight of the drilling equipment including the power system and fuel is <400 kg. Installation of small-diameter sensors was possible for 1.8– 6 hours after penetration through the glacier into the sea water beneath. The new drilling technique does not require drilling fluid and therefore has minimal environmental impact. It should permit access through ice-shelf ice up to 350 m thick, or glaciers on grounded ice or subglacial lakes if there is no water-permeable interface at the base. Modifications, presented in this work, of the drilling equipment and protocol will allow for (1) ~ 21 working hours for penetration through 200 m of ice, (2) installation of sensors up to 120 mm in diameter and (3) drilling long-term open boreholes through 400 m thick ice in 100 working hours.
This study presents the first complete glacier inventory of the Torngat Mountains, northern Labrador, Canada. In total, 195 glaciers and ice masses are identified, covering a total area of 24.5 ± 1.8 km2. Mapped ice masses range in size from 0.01 to 1.26 km2, with a median size of 0.08 km2. Ice masses have a median elevation of 776 m a.s.l. and span an altitudinal range of 290–1500 m a.s.l. Indications of ice flow suggest at least 105 active glaciers in the Torngat Mountains. Analysis of morphometric and topographic parameters suggests that the regional distribution of ice masses is linked to physiographic setting while the preservation of coastal ice masses at low elevation is related to local meteorological conditions. In the most coastal environments, ice masses are shown to exist below the regional glaciation level due to topographic shadowing, coastal proximity and widespread debris cover. This study provides a baseline for future change assessment.
Glacier roughness at sub-metre scales is an important control on the ice surface energy balance and has implications for scattering energy measured by remote-sensing instruments. Ice surface roughness is dynamic as a consequence of spatial and temporal variation in ablation. To date, studies relying on singular and/or spatially discrete two-dimensional profiles to describe ice surface roughness have failed to resolve common patterns or causes of variation in glacier surface morphology. Here we demonstrate the potential of close-range digital photogrammetry as a rapid and cost-effective method to retrieve three-dimensional data detailing plot-scale supraglacial topography. The photogrammetric approach here employed a calibrated, consumer-grade 5 Mpix digital camera repeatedly imaging a plot-scale (≤25 m2) ice surface area on Midtre Lovénbreen, Svalbard. From stereo-pair images, digital surface models (DSMs) with sub-centimetre horizontal resolution and 3 mm vertical precision were achieved at plot scales ≤4 m2. Extraction of roughness metrics including estimates of aerodynamic roughness length (z0) was readily achievable, and temporal variations in the glacier surface topography were captured. Close-range photogrammetry, with appropriate camera calibration and image acquisition geometry, is shown to be a robust method to record sub-centimetre variations in ablating ice topography. While the DSM plot area may be limited through use of stereo-pair images and issues of obliquity, emerging photogrammetric packages are likely to overcome such limitations.
In polar ice sheets, the average grain size varies with depth. Ice grain size increases due to several factors including ice temperature and impurity content, which in turn varies with climate. The effect of impurities on grain growth is thought to be crucial but has never been observed experimentally. Using a methodology recently developed at Royal Holloway University of London, in situ chemical analysis of frozen ice at sub-ppm concentrations with unprecedented spatial resolution (~150 μm) is achievable using ultraviolet laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (UV-LA-ICPMS) featuring a two-volume cryo-LA-cell. Following surface cleaning with a custom-built vice equipped with a ceramic blade, NGRIP ice slabs (~86 ka before AD 2000) have been analysed using a series of one-dimensional profiles and two-dimensional maps of laser spots at a resolution of 200–300 μm. Results demonstrate that cation impurities are not uniformly distributed in ice layers and show significant variations in concentration on a sub-millimetre scale. Furthermore, a different pattern of elemental distribution between clear ice and layers enriched in impurities (cloudy bands) has been identified: while concentration differences for cloudy bands are not resolvable between boundaries and inner grain domains, within clear ice, grain boundaries and junctions are significantly (up to 100 times) impurity-enriched relative to corresponding grain interiors.
At Taylor Glacier, a cold-based outlet glacier of the East Antarctic ice sheet, observed surface speeds in the terminus region are 20 times greater than those predicted using Glen’s flow law for cold (–17°C), thin (100 m) ice. Rheological properties of the clean meteoric glacier ice and the underlying deformable debris-rich basal ice can be inferred from surface-velocity and ablation-rate profiles using inverse theory. Here, with limited data, we use a two-layer flowband model to examine two end-member assumptions about the basal-ice properties: (1) uniform softness with spatially variable thickness and (2) uniform thickness with spatially variable softness. We find that the basal ice contributes 85–98% to the observed surface velocity in the terminus region. We also find that the basal-ice layer must be 10–15 m thick and 20–40 times softer than clean Holocene-age glacier ice in order to match the observations. Because significant deformation occurs in the basal ice, our inverse problem is not sensitive to variations in the softness of the meteoric ice. Our results suggest that despite low temperatures, highly deformable basal ice may dominate flow of cold-based glaciers and rheologically distinct layers should be incorporated in models of polar-glacier flow.
Recovery Ice Stream has multiple branches reaching far into the East Antarctic ice sheet. We use new airborne and ground-based geophysics to give the first comprehensive overview of the upper catchment and, by constraining the physical setting, to advance our understanding of the controlling mechanisms for the onset of fast flow. The 400 km wide ice stream extends towards the Recovery Subglacial Lakes, a region characterized by a crustal boundary, a change in bed roughness, a bedrock topographic step and four topographic basins (A–D), three of which (A–C) contain subglacial water. All these characteristics are considered potential causal mechanisms that contribute to the onset of fast flow. In Lakes B and C the subglacial water is located in basins with sharp downstream ridges, in contrast to the gently sloping ridge on the downstream margin of Lake A. The fastest-flowing branch of the ice stream emanates from Lake A. The presence of multiple causal mechanisms along the four Recovery Lakes allows us to identify basal water as a dominant factor for the onset of fast flow, but only if it is stored in a shallow-sided basin where it can lubricate the flow downstream. Relatively minor topographic barriers appear to inhibit streaming.
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 ~ 1000 km long bedrock trough under the main trunk of Recovery Ice Stream, whose base is ~ 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.