The non‐local impacts of Antarctic subglacial runoff

Little is known about Antarctic subglacial hydrology, but based on modeling, theory and indirect observations it is thought that subglacial runoff enhances submarine melt locally through buoyancy effects. However, no studies to date have examined effects of runoff on sea ice and oceanography on the continental shelf. Here we use modeled and observational estimates of runoff to force a regional model of the Amundsen Sea Embayment. We find that runoff enhances melt locally (i.e. within the ice-shelf cavity), increasing melt at Thwaites ice shelf by up to 15 Gt/a given estimates of steady runoff, and up to 25 Gt/a if runoff is episodic as remote sensing measurements suggest. However runoff also has smaller non-local effects on melt through freshwater influence on flow and stratification. We further find that runoff reduces summer sea-ice volume over the continental shelf (by up to 10% with steady runoff but over 30% with episodic runoff). Furthermore runoff is much more effective at reducing sea ice than an equivalent volume of ice-shelf meltwater — due in part to the latent heat loss associated with submarine melting. Results suggest that runoff may play an important role in continental shelf dynamics, despite runoff flux being small relative to ice-shelf melting — and that runoff-driven melt and circulation may be an important process missing from regional Antarctic ocean models.


Publication status:
Authors: Goldberg, Daniel N., Twelves, Andrew G., Holland, Paul R. ORCIDORCID record for Paul R. Holland, Wearing, Martin G.

On this site: Paul Holland
1 October, 2023
Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans / 128
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