Ice‐shelf basal melt channels stabilized by secondary flow

Ice-shelf basal channels form due to concentrated submarine melting. They are present in many Antarctic ice shelves and can reduce ice-shelf structural integrity, potentially destabilizing ice shelves by full-depth incision. Here, we describe the viscous ice response to a basal channel - secondary flow - which acts perpendicular to the channel axis and is induced by gradients in ice thickness. We use a full-Stokes ice-flow model to systematically assess the transient evolution of a basal channel in the presence of melting. Secondary flow increases with channel size and reduces the rate of channel incision, such that linear extrapolation or the Shallow-Shelf Approximation cannot project future channel evolution. For thick ice shelves (> 600 m) secondary flow potentially stabilizes the channel, but is insufficient to significantly delay breakthrough for thinner ice (< 400 m). Using synthetic data, we assess the impact of secondary flow when inferring basal-channel melt rates from satellite observations.


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Authors: Wearing, M.G., Stevens, L.A., Dutrieux, P. ORCIDORCID record for P. Dutrieux, Kingslake, J.

On this site: Pierre Dutrieux
16 November, 2021
Geophysical Research Letters / 48
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