On the evolution of an ice shelf melt channel at the base of Filchner Ice Shelf, from observations and viscoelastic modeling

Ice shelves play a key role in the stability of the Antarctic Ice Sheet due to their buttressing effect. A loss of buttressing as a result of increased basal melting or ice shelf disintegration will lead to increased ice discharge. Some ice shelves exhibit channels at the base that are not yet fully understood. In this study, we present in situ melt rates of a channel which is up to 330 m high and located in the southern Filchner Ice Shelf. Maximum observed melt rates are 2 m yr(-1). Melt rates inside the channel decrease in the direction of ice flow and turn to freezing similar to 55 km downstream of the grounding line. While closer to the grounding line melt rates are higher within the channel than outside, this relationship reverses further downstream. Comparing the modeled evolution of this channel under present-day climate conditions over 250 years with its present geometry reveals a mismatch. Melt rates twice as large as the present-day values are required to fit the observed geometry. In contrast, forcing the model with present-day melt rates results in a closure of the channel, which contradicts observations. The ice shelf experiences strong tidal variability in vertical strain rates at the measured site, and discrete pulses of increased melting occurred throughout the measurement period. The type of melt channel in this study diminishes in height with distance from the grounding line and is hence not a destabilizing factor for ice shelves.


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Authors: Humbert, Angelika, Christmann, Julia, Corr, Hugh F.J., Helm, Veit, Höyns, Lea-Sophie, Hofstede, Coen, Müller, Ralf, Neckel, Niklas, Nicholls, Keith W. ORCIDORCID record for Keith W. Nicholls, Schultz, Timm, Steinhage, Daniel, Wolovick, Michael, Zeising, Ole

On this site: Hugh Corr, Keith Nicholls
10 October, 2022
The Cryosphere / 16
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