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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2018-163
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2018-163
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 18 Sep 2018

Submitted as: research article | 18 Sep 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It has been under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC). A final paper in TC is not foreseen.

Significant submarine ice loss from the Getz Ice Shelf, Antarctica

David M. Rippin David M. Rippin
  • Department of Environment and Geography, University of York Wentworth Way, Heslington, York, YO10 5NG

Abstract. We present the first direct measurements of changes taking place at the base of the Getz Ice Shelf (GzIS) in West Antarctica. Our analysis is based on repeated airborne radio-echo sounding (RES) survey lines gathered in 2010 and 2014. We reveal that while there is significant variability in ice shelf behaviour, the vast majority of the ice shelf (where data is available) is undergoing basal thinning at a mean rate of nearly 13 m a−1, which is several times greater than recent modelling estimates. In regions of faster flowing ice close to where ice streams and outlet glaciers join the ice shelf, significantly greater rates of mass loss occurred. Since thinning is more pronounced close to faster-flowing ice, we propose that dynamic thinning processes may also contribute to mass loss here. Intricate sub-ice circulation patterns exist beneath the GzIS because of its complex sub-ice topography and the fact that it is fed by numerous ice streams and outlet glaciers. It is this complexity which we suggest is also responsible for the spatially variable patterns of ice-shelf change that we observe. The large changes observed here are also important when considering the likelihood and timing of any potential future collapse of the ice shelf, and the impact this would have on the flow rates of feeder ice streams and glaciers, that transmit ice from inland Antarctica to the coast. We propose that as the ice shelf continues to thin in response to warming ocean waters and climate, the response of the ice shelf will be spatially diverse. Given that these measurements represent changes that are significantly greater than modelling outputs, it is also clear that we still do not fully understand how ice shelves respond to warming ocean waters. As a result, ongoing direct measurements of ice shelf change are vital for understanding the future response of ice shelves under a warming climate.

David M. Rippin
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Interactive discussion
Status: closed
Status: closed
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
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David M. Rippin
David M. Rippin
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Short summary
We explore the changes going on at the base of the Getz Ice Shelf in West Antarctica using repeated airborne radio-echo sounding surveys which allow us to see the ice-base. Between 2010 and 2014 we observed considerable thinning at an average rate of nearly 13 m a−1, which is faster than recent predictions. These large changes are important because ice-shelves control how easily ice is transmitted from inland Antarctica to the coast. If ice-shelves collapse, this happens much more quickly.
We explore the changes going on at the base of the Getz Ice Shelf in West Antarctica using...
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