Circulation and melting beneath George VI Ice Shelf, Antarctica

Introduction George VI Ice Shelf, sandwiched between the western coast of Palmer Land and the eastern coast of Alexander Island, is the largest and most studied of the west Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves. It covers an area of approximately 25,000 km2 and is underlain by Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW), with temperatures in excess of 1ºC, giving rise to rapid basal melting (Bishop and Walton, 1981; Lennon et al., 1982). The maximum ice thickness of about 500 m occurs about 70 km from the southern ice front, where a ridge of thick ice extends across George VI Sound (near 70ºW, see Figure 1) effectively dividing the upper water column into northern and southern regions. The northern ice front, which faces Marguerite Bay, appears to be near the geographical limit of ice shelf viability and has undergone a gradual retreat in recent decades (Lucchitta and Rosanova, 1998), a timeframe over which much of the nearby Wordie Ice Shelf disintegrated (Doake and Vaughan, 1991). There is extensive surface melting over the northern parts of the ice shelf and much of the ice column near the northern ice front appears to be temperate (Paren and Cooper, 1986). Conditions in the south, where the ice front faces into Ronne Entrance, are colder and the ice front position appears to be steady. The vast majority of the flow into the ice shelf comes from Palmer Land, but basal melting is sufficient to remove most of this, so that the ice is derived almost exclusively from local accumulation by the time it reaches the ice fronts (Potter et al., 1984). There is some evidence at the margins of the ice shelf to suggest that it may have disappeared completely during the early Holocene before reforming (Sugden and Clapperton, 1981; Bentley et al., 2005).


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Authors: Jenkins, Adrian ORCID, Jacobs, Stan

On this site: Adrian Jenkins
1 January, 2007
Forum for Research into Ice Shelf Processes (FRISP). Report / 17