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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 24 May 2019

Submitted as: research article | 24 May 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

Spatial and temporal variations in basal melting at Nivlisen ice shelf, East Antarctica, derived from phase-sensitive radars

Katrin Lindbäck1, Geir Moholdt1, Keith W. Nicholls2, Tore Hattermann1, Bhanu Pratap3, Meloth Thamban3, and Kenichi Matsuoka1 Katrin Lindbäck et al.
  • 1Norwegian Polar Institute, Framsentret, Postboks 6606, Langnes, 9296 Tromsø, Norway
  • 2British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environmental Research Council, High Cross, Madingley Rd, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK
  • 3ESSO-National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Headland Sada, Vasco-da-Gama, Goa 403 804, India

Abstract. Thinning rates of ice shelves vary widely around Antarctica and basal melting is a major component in ice shelf mass loss. In this study, we present records of basal melting, at unique spatial and temporal resolution for East Antarctica, derived from autonomous phase-sensitive radars. These records show spatial and temporal variations of ice shelf basal melting in 2017 and 2018 at Nivlisen, central Dronning Maud Land. The annually averaged melt rates are in general moderate (~ 0.8 m yr-1). Radar profiling of the ice-shelf shows variable ice thickness from smooth beds to basal crevasses and channels. The highest melt rates (3.9 m yr-1) were observed close to a grounded feature near the ice shelf front. Daily time-varying measurements reveal a seasonal melt signal 4 km from the ice shelf front, at an ice draft of 130 m, where the highest daily melt rates occurred in summer (up to 5.6 m yr-1). This seasonality indicates that summer-warmed ocean surface water was pushed by wind beneath the ice shelf front. We observed a different melt regime 35 km into the ice-shelf cavity, at an ice draft of 280 m, with considerably lower melt rates (annual average of 0.4 m yr-1) and no seasonality. We conclude that warm deep ocean water at present has limited effect on the basal melting of Nivlisen. On the other hand, a warming in surface waters, as a result of diminishing sea-ice cover has the potential to increase basal melting near the ice-shelf front. Many ice shelves like Nivlisen are stabilized by pinning points at their ice fronts and these areas may be vulnerable to future change.

Katrin Lindbäck et al.
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Katrin Lindbäck et al.
Katrin Lindbäck et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
In this study, we used a radar technique to measure the melting at high precision under an ice shelf in East Antarctica. We found that summer-warmed ocean surface waters can increase melting close to the ice front. Our study shows the use of and need for measurements in field to monitor Antarctica’s coastal margins; these detailed variations in melting are not captured in satellite data, but are important to predict future changes.
In this study, we used a radar technique to measure the melting at high precision under an ice...