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Marine ice-sheet dynamics. Part 1. The case of rapid sliding

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 February 2007

CHRISTIAN SCHOOF*
Affiliation:
Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of British Columbia, 6339 Stores Road, Vancouver, V6T 1Z4, Canada

Abstract

Marine ice sheets are continental ice masses resting on bedrock below sea level. Their dynamics are similar to those of land-based ice sheets except that they must couple with the surrounding floating ice shelves at the grounding line, where the ice reaches a critical flotation thickness. In order to predict the evolution of the grounding line as a free boundary, two boundary conditions are required for the diffusion equation describing the evolution of the grounded-ice thickness. By analogy with Stefan problems, one of these conditions imposes a prescribed ice thickness at the grounding line and arises from the fact that the ice becomes afloat. The other condition must be determined by coupling the ice sheet to the surrounding ice shelves. Here we employ matched asymptotic expansions to study the transition from ice-sheet to ice-shelf flow for the case of rapidly sliding ice sheets. Our principal results are that the ice flux at the grounding line in a two-dimensional ice sheet is an increasing function of the depth of the sea floor there, and that ice thicknesses at the grounding line must be small compared with ice thicknesses inland. These results indicate that marine ice sheets have a discrete set of steady surface profiles (if they have any at all) and that the stability of these steady profiles depends on the slope of the sea floor at the grounding line.

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Papers
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2007

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