New gravity-derived bathymetry for the Thwaites, Crosson and Dotson ice shelves revealing two ice shelf populations [in review]
Ice shelves play a critical role in the long-term stability of ice sheets through their buttressing effect. The underlying bathymetry and cavity thickness are key inputs for modelling future ice sheet evolution. However, direct observation of sub-ice shelf bathymetry is time consuming, logistically risky, and in some areas simply not possible. Here we use airborne gravity anomaly data to provide new estimates of sub-ice shelf bathymetry outboard of the rapidly changing West Antarctic Thwaites Glacier, and beneath the adjacent Dotson and Crosson Ice Shelves. This region is of especial interest as the low-lying inland reverse slope of the Thwaites glacier system makes it vulnerable to marine ice sheet instability, with rapid grounding-line retreat observed since 1993 suggesting this process may be underway. Our results confirm a major marine channel > 800 m deep extends to the front of Thwaites Glacier, while the adjacent ice shelves are underlain by more complex bathymetry. Comparison of our new bathymetry with ice shelf draft reveals that ice shelves formed since 1993 comprise a distinct population where the draft conforms closely to the underlying bathymetry, unlike the older ice shelves which show a more uniform depth of the ice base. This indicates that despite rapid basal melting in some areas, these “new” ice shelves are not yet in equilibrium with the underlying ocean system. We propose qualitative models of how this transient ice-shelf configuration may have developed.
Authors: Jordan, Tom A. ORCID record for Tom A. Jordan, Porter, David, Tinto, Kirsty, Millan, Romain, Muto, Atsuhiro, Hogan, Kelly ORCID record for Kelly Hogan, Larter, Robert D. ORCID record for Robert D. Larter, Graham, Alastair G.C., Paden, John D.