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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
© 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 08 Jul 2019

Submitted as: research article | 08 Jul 2019

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

Ice island thinning: Rates and model calibration with in situ observations from Baffin Bay, Nunavut

Anna J. Crawford1,2, Derek Mueller1, Gregory Crocker2, Laurent Mingo3, Luc Desjardins1, Dany Dumont4, and Marcel Babin5 Anna J. Crawford et al.
  • 1Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, K1S 5B6, Canada
  • 2School of Geography and Sustainable Development, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, KY16 9AJ, UK
  • 3Blue System Integration Ltd., Vancouver, British Columbia, V5W 3H4, Canada
  • 4Institut des sciences de la mer de Rimouski, Université du Québec à Rimouski, Rimouski, Québec, G5L 3A1, Canada
  • 5Département de Biologie, Université Laval, Québec, Québec, G1V 0A6, Canada

Abstract. A 130 km2 tabular iceberg calved from Petermann Glacier in northwest Greenland on 5 August 2012. Subsequent fracturing generated many individual large “ice islands”, including “Petermann Ice Island (PII)-A-1-f”, that drifted between Nares Strait and the North Atlantic. Thinning caused by basal and surface ablation increases the likelihood that these ice islands will fracture and disperse further, thereby increasing the risk to marine transport and infrastructure as well as the distribution of freshwater from the polar ice sheets. We use a unique stationary and mobile ice penetrating radar dataset collected over four campaigns to PII-A-1-f to quantify and contextualize ice island surface and basal ablation rates and calibrate a forced convection basal ablation model. The ice island thinned by 4.7 m over 11 months. The majority of thinning (73 %) resulted from basal ablation, but the associated volume loss was ~ 12 times less than that caused by areal reduction (e.g. wave erosion, calving, and fracture). However, localized thinning may have influenced a large fracture event that occurred along a section of ice that was ~ 40 m thinner than the remainder of the ice island. The calibration of the basal ablation model, the first with such field data, supports assigning the theoretically-derived value of 1.2 × 10−5 m2/5 s−1/5 °C−1 to the model's bulk heat transfer coefficient. Overall, this work highlights the value of systematically collecting ice island field data for analyzing deterioration processes, assessing their connections to ice island morphology, and adequately developing models for operational and research purposes.

Anna J. Crawford et al.
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Anna J. Crawford et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Large tabular icebergs (ice islands) are symbols of climate change as well as marine hazards. We measured thickness along radar transects over two visits to a 14 sq km Arctic ice island and left automated equipment to monitor surface ablation and thickness over 1 year. We assess variation in thinning rates and calibrate an ice-ocean melt model with field data. Our work contributes to understanding ice island deterioration via logistically complex fieldwork in a remote environment.
Large tabular icebergs (ice islands) are symbols of climate change as well as marine hazards. We...