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Antarctica's ice shelves modulate the grounded ice flow, and weakening of ice shelves due to climate forcing will decrease their ‘buttressing’ effect, causing a response in the grounded ice. While the processes governing ice-shelf weakening are complex, uncertainties in the response of the grounded ice sheet are also difficult to assess. The Antarctic BUttressing Model Intercomparison Project (ABUMIP) compares ice-sheet model responses to decrease in buttressing by investigating the ‘end-member’ scenario of total and sustained loss of ice shelves. Although unrealistic, this scenario enables gauging the sensitivity of an ensemble of 15 ice-sheet models to a total loss of buttressing, hence exhibiting the full potential of marine ice-sheet instability. All models predict that this scenario leads to multi-metre (1–12 m) sea-level rise over 500 years from present day. West Antarctic ice sheet collapse alone leads to a 1.91–5.08 m sea-level rise due to the marine ice-sheet instability. Mass loss rates are a strong function of the sliding/friction law, with plastic laws cause a further destabilization of the Aurora and Wilkes Subglacial Basins, East Antarctica. Improvements to marine ice-sheet models have greatly reduced variability between modelled ice-sheet responses to extreme ice-shelf loss, e.g. compared to the SeaRISE assessments.
Basal motion of ice sheets depends in part on the roughness and material properties of the subglacial bed and the occurrence of water. To date, basal motion represents one of the largest uncertainties in ice-flow models. It is that component of the total flow velocity that can change most rapidly and can, therefore, facilitate rapid variations in dynamic behaviour. In this study, we investigate the subglacial properties of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet by statistically analysing the roughness of the bed topography, inferred from radio-echo sounding measurements. We analyse two sets of roughness parameters, one derived in the spatial and the other in the spectral domain, with two roughness parameters each. This enables us to compare the suitability of the four roughness parameters to classify the subglacial landscapes below the ice sheet. We further investigate the relationship of the roughness parameters with observed surface flow velocity and modelled basal temperatures of the ice sheet. We find that one of the roughness parameters, the Hurst exponent derived in the spatial domain, coincides with the thermal condition at the base of the ice sheet for slow flow velocities and varies with flow velocity.
In the current ice-sheet models calving of ice shelves is based on phenomenological approaches. To obtain physics-based calving criteria, a viscoelastic Maxwell model is required accounting for short-term elastic and long-term viscous deformation. On timescales of months to years between calving events, as well as on long timescales with several subsequent iceberg break-offs, deformations are no longer small and linearized strain measures cannot be used. We present a finite deformation framework of viscoelasticity and extend this model by a nonlinear Glen-type viscosity. A finite element implementation is used to compute stress and strain states in the vicinity of the ice-shelf calving front. Stress and strain maxima of small (linearized strain measure) and finite strain formulations differ by ~ 5% after 1 and by ~ 30% after 10 years, respectively. A finite deformation formulation reaches a critical stress or strain faster, thus calving rates will be higher, despite the fact that the exact critical values are not known. Nonlinear viscosity of Glen-type leads to higher stress values. The Maxwell material model formulation for finite deformations presented here can also be applied to other glaciological problems, for example, tidal forcing at grounding lines or closure of englacial and subglacial melt channels.
Ice-stream dynamics are strongly controlled by processes taking place at the ice/bed interface where subglacial water both lubricates the base and saturates any existing, underlying sediment. Large parts of the former Eurasian ice sheet were underlain by thick sequences of soft, marine sediments and many areas are imprinted with geomorphological features indicative of fast flow and wet basal conditions. Here, we study the effect of subglacial water on past Eurasian ice-sheet dynamics by incorporating a thin-film model of basal water flow into the ice-sheet model SICOPOLIS and use it to better represent flow in temperate areas. The adjunction of subglacial hydrology results in a smaller ice-sheet building up over time and generally faster ice velocities, which consequently reduces the total area fraction of temperate basal ice and ice streaming areas. Minima in the hydraulic pressure potential, governing water flow, are used as indicators for potential locations of past subglacial lakes and a probability distribution of lake existence is presented based on estimated lake depth and longevity.
Calving mechanisms are still poorly understood and stress states in the vicinity of ice-shelf fronts are insufficiently known for the development of physically motivated calving laws that match observations. A calving model requires the knowledge of maximum tensile stresses. These stresses depend on different simulation approaches and material models. Therefore, this study compares results of a two-dimensional (2-D) continuum approach using finite elements with results of a one-dimensional (1-D) beam model elaborated in Reeh (1968). A purely viscous model, as well as a viscoelastic Maxwell model, is applied for the 2-D case. The maximum tensile stress usually appears at the top surface of an ice shelf. Its location and magnitude are predominantly influenced by the thickness of the ice shelf and the height of the freeboard, the traction-free part at the ice front. More precisely, doubling the thickness leads to twice the stress maximum, while doubling the freeboard, based on changes of the ice density, results in an increase of the stress maximum by 61%. Poisson's ratio controls the evolution of the maximum stress with time. The viscosity and Young's modulus define the characteristic time of the Maxwell model and thus the time to reach the maximum principal stress.
To understand the dynamics of ice shelves, a knowledge of their internal and basal structure is very important. As the capacity to perform local surveys is limited, remote sensing provides an opportunity to obtain the relevant information. We must prove, however, that the relevant information can be obtained from remote sensing of the surface. That is the aim of this study. The Jelbart Ice Shelf, Antarctica, exhibits a variety of surface structures appearing as stripe-like features in radar imagery. We performed an airborne geophysical survey across these features and compared the results to TerraSAR-X imagery. We find that the stripe-like structures indicate surface troughs coinciding with the location of basal channels and crevasse-like features, revealed by radio-echo sounding. HH and VV polarizations do not show different magnitude. In surface troughs, the local accumulation rate is larger than at the flat surface. Viscoelastic modelling is used to gain an understanding of the surface undulations and their origin. The surface displacement, computed with a Maxwell model, matches the observed surface reasonably well. Our simulations show that the surface troughs develop over decadal to centennial timescales.
The German Antarctic Receiving Station (GARS) O’Higgins at the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula is a dual purpose facility for earth observation and has existed for more than 20 years. It serves as a satellite ground station for payload data downlink and telecommanding of remote sensing satellites as well as a geodetic observatory for global reference systems and global change. Both applications use the same 9 m diameter radio antenna. Major outcomes of this usage are summarised in this paper.
The satellite ground station O’Higgins (OHG) is part of the global ground station network of the German Remote Sensing Data Centre (DFD) operated by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR). It was established in 1991 to provide remote sensing data downlink support within the missions of the European Remote Sensing Satellites ERS-1 and ERS-2. These missions provided valuable insights into the changes of the Antarctic ice shield. Especially after the failure of the on-board data recorder, OHG became an essential downlink station for ERS-2 real-time data transmission. Since 2010, OHG is manned during the entire year, specifically to support the TanDEM-X mission. OHG is a main dump station for payload data, monitoring and telecommanding of the German TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X satellites.
For space geodesy and astrometry the radio antenna O’Higgins significantly improves coverage over the southern hemisphere and plays an essential role within the global Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) network. In particular the determination of the Earth Orientation Parameters (EOP) and the sky coverage of the International Celestial Reference Frame (ICRF) benefit from the location at a high southern latitude. Further, the resolution of VLBI images of active galactic nuclei (AGN), cosmic radio sources defining the ICRF, improves significantly when O’Higgins is included in the network. The various geodetic instrumentation and the long time series at O’Higgins allow a reliable determination of crustal motions. VLBI station velocities, continuous GNSS measurements and campaign-wise absolute gravity measurements consistently document a vertical rate of about 5 mm/a. This crustal uplift is interpreted as an elastic rebound due to ice loss as a consequence of the ice shelf disintegration in the Prince Gustav Channel in the late 1990s.
The outstanding location on the Antarctic continent and its year-around operation make GARS O’Higgins in future increasingly attractive for polar orbiting satellite missions and a vitally important station for the global VLBI network. Future plans call for the development of an observatory for environmentally relevant research. That means that the portfolio of the station will be expanded including the expansion of the infrastructure and the construction and operation of new scientific instruments suitable for long-term measurements and satellite ground truthing.
We study the presence and effect of subglacial water on the motion of inland ice in western Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica. A full-Stokes model including three routing schemes for a thin film of subglacial water and a modification of a Weertman-type sliding relation, to account for higher sliding velocities under wet basal conditions, were used to perform 200 ka spin-up simulations on a 2.5 km grid. Subsequent 30 ka simulations with wet and dry basal conditions were analysed for the effects of sliding on the thermal regime and velocities. The occurrence of the major ice streams in this area is mainly controlled by the ice and bedrock geometry. Smaller glaciers only appear as pronounced individual glaciers when subglacial water is taken into account. The thermal regime is affected by creep instabilities produced by an ice rheology including a microscopic water content, leading to cyclic behaviour on millennial timescales of the ice flow and occurrence of temperate ice at the base.
Predictions of marine ice-sheet behaviour require models able to simulate grounding-line migration. We present results of an intercomparison experiment for plan-view marine ice-sheet models. Verification is effected by comparison with approximate analytical solutions for flux across the grounding line using simplified geometrical configurations (no lateral variations, no buttressing effects from lateral drag). Perturbation experiments specifying spatial variation in basal sliding parameters permitted the evolution of curved grounding lines, generating buttressing effects. The experiments showed regions of compression and extensional flow across the grounding line, thereby invalidating the boundary layer theory. Steady-state grounding-line positions were found to be dependent on the level of physical model approximation. Resolving grounding lines requires inclusion of membrane stresses, a sufficiently small grid size (<500 m), or subgrid interpolation of the grounding line. The latter still requires nominal grid sizes of <5 km. For larger grid spacings, appropriate parameterizations for ice flux may be imposed at the grounding line, but the short-time transient behaviour is then incorrect and different from models that do not incorporate grounding-line parameterizations. The numerical error associated with predicting grounding-line motion can be reduced significantly below the errors associated with parameter ignorance and uncertainties in future scenarios.
Numerical simulations of the temperature regime of the ice shelf Fimbulisen, Antarctica, are presented. A vertical temperature profile (S1) of Fimbulisen has been measured at the extension of Jutulstraumen, in which the temperature decreases with depth. The three-dimensional steady-state temperature field was computed by a finite-element technique. Horizontal flow velocities and surface accumulation rates were derived from observations. The basal melt rate distribution arose from an assumption of balance in the mass continuity equation. The computed basal melt rate distribution (ab) indicates that the highest basal melt rates, up to 15 m a 1 occur at the inflow gate of Jutulstraumen, and low basal melt rates (<0.6ma 1) occur in the slower moving parts. Where the ice shelf overhangs the continental shelf, ab ~1.2ma−1 . The resulting temperature field indicates that Fimbulisen consists of a cold middle part, built up by the extension of Jutulstraumen, and warmer ice masses in slow-moving areas to the west and east. Furthermore, model runs were set up in which the atmospheric temperatures increased in +1 K steps. The results suggest that the warming effectively increases the temperatures throughout the ice column in the slower-moving parts, therefore enhancing shear at the margins of the extension of Jutulstraumen.
King George Island is located at the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, which is influenced by maritime climate conditions. The observed mean annual air temperature at sea level is –2.4˚C. Thus, the ice cap is regarded as sensitive to changing climatic conditions. Ground-penetrating radar surveys indicate a partly temperate ice cap with an extended water layer at the firn/ice transition of the up to 700 m high ice cap. Measured firn temperatures are close to 0˚C at the higher elevations, and they differ considerably from the measured mean annual air temperature. The aim of this paper is to present ice-flow dynamics by means of observations and simulations of the flow velocities. During several field campaigns from 1997/98 to 2008/09, ice surface velocities were derived with repeated differential GPS measurements. Ice velocities vary from 0.7 m a−1 at the dome to 112.1 m a−1 along steep slopes. For the western part of the ice cap a three-dimensional diagnostic full-Stokes model was applied to calculate ice flow. Parameters of the numerical model were identified with respect to measured ice surface velocities. The simulations indicate cold ice at higher elevations, while temperate ice at lower elevations is consistent with the observations.
Two diagnostic, dynamic/thermodynamic ice-shelf models are applied to the Brunt Ice Shelf/Stancomb-Wills Ice Tongue system, located off Caird Coast, Coats Land, Antarctica. The Brunt Ice Shelf/Stancomb-Wills Ice Tongue system is characterized as a thin, unbounded ice shelf with an atypical and highly heterogeneous structure. In contrast to other ice shelves, a composite mass of icebergs that calved at the grounding line and were then locked within fast (sea) ice exists between the fast-moving Stancomb-Wills Ice Stream and the slow-moving Brunt Ice Shelf. We simulate the present flow regime of the ice shelf that results from the ice-thickness distribution and the inflow at the grounding line with two different models, and compare the model results with feature tracking and InSAR flow velocities. We then incorporate two observed features, a rift and a shear margin, into the models with two different approaches, and demonstrate the effects of variations in numerical values for the shear strength and viscosity in these zones on the simulated velocity field. A major result is that both kinds of implementation of the rifts lead to similar effects on the entire velocity field, while there are discrepancies in the vicinity of the rifts.
A diagnostic, dynamic/thermodynamic ice-shelf model is applied to the George VI Ice Shelf, situated in the Bellinghausen Sea, Antarctica. The George VI Ice Shelf has a peculiar flow geometry which sets it apart from other ice shelves. Inflow occurs along the two longest, and almost parallel, sides, whereas outflow occurs on the two ice fronts that are relatively short and situated at opposite ends of the ice shelf. Two data sources were used to derive the ice thickness distribution: conventional radioecho sounding from the British Antarctic Survey was combined with thickness inferred from surface elevation obtained by the NASA GLAS satellite system assuming hydrostatic equilibrium. We simulate the present ice flow over the ice shelf that results from the ice thickness distribution, the inflow at the grounding line and the flow rate factor. The high spatial resolution of the ice thickness distribution leads to very detailed simulations. The flow field has some extraordinary elements (e.g. the stagnation point characteristics resulting from the unusual ice-shelf geometry).
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