Ice‐shelf basal melt channels stabilized by secondary flow

Wearing, M.G.; Stevens, L.A.; Dutrieux, P. ORCID:; Kingslake, J.. 2021 Ice‐shelf basal melt channels stabilized by secondary flow. Geophysical Research Letters, 48 (21), e2021GL094872. 11, pp.

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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.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0094-8276
Additional Keywords: Antarctica, ice shelves, ice-flow modelling
Date made live: 19 Oct 2021 15:56 +0 (UTC)

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