Ice-Ocean Interactions in North West Greenland

Ice shelves play an important role in the mass balance of an ice sheet, by providing a link between the ocean and ice. Melting at the base of an ice shelf can play a vital role in its mass balance and stability. Topographic channel features have been found on the base of ice shelves, and have been found to alter melting, however the mechanism behind this alteration is unknown. Petermann Glacier is a major outlet glacier in North West Greenland, draining approximately 6% of Greenland Ice Sheet. It terminates in a long, thin ice shelf, constrained within a high-walled fjord. The ice shelf has pronounced longitudinal channel features on its base, which limited observations suggest direct ocean currents in a mixed layer of ocean and melt waters, focusing melt in these regions. Petermann Glacier underwent two large calving events in 2010 and 2012, and the impact of these events, or possible further calving events, on basal melting is unknown. Using the MITgcm to model the ocean cavity beneath an idealised ice shelf, this thesis discusses the impact of basal channels on interactions at the ice base and circulation within the cavity. This is supplemented with a modelling investigation into the interactions beneath Petermann Glacier, and the impact of recent calving events. The inclusion of channels was found to have a stabilising effect on the ice shelf by decreasing the mean basal melt rate, caused by the refocusing, and decrease in intensity of, the meltwater layer flow beneath the ice shelf. This stabilisation and resulting `survivor bias' explains why channels are commonly found on the base of warm water ice shelves. The model of Petermann Glacier found similar melt patterns to observational studies, however with a lesser magnitude. The calving events of 2010 and 2012 removed areas of ice shelf with low melt rates, resulting in little impact on the overall volume of ice removed through ocean melting, though further calving would vastly reduce the volume of ice melted. One consequence of calving is the increase in melting-induced undercutting at the ice front, leading to the potential for enhanced secondary calving. Part of the results contained within this thesis are published as: Millgate, T., P.R. Holland, A. Jenkins and H.L. Johnson (2013), The effect of basal channels on oceanic ice-shelf melting, Journal of Geophysical Research Oceans, 118, doi:10.1002/2013JC009402.


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Authors: Millgate, Thomas

On this site: Thomas Millgate
1 January, 2014