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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-2019-170
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-170
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 26 Jul 2019

Submitted as: research article | 26 Jul 2019

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

Getz Ice Shelf melt enhanced by freshwater discharge from beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

Wei Wei1, Donald D. Blankenship1, Jamin S. Greenbaum1, Noel Gourmelen2, Christine F. Dow3, Thomas G. Richter1, Chad A. Greene4, Duncan A. Young1, Sang-Hoon Lee5, Tae-Wan Kim5, Won Sang Lee5, Anna Wåhlin6, and Karen M. Assmann6 Wei Wei et al.
  • 1Institute for Geophysics and Department of Geological Sciences, Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA
  • 2School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  • 3Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  • 4Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA
  • 5Korea Polar Research Institute, Incheon, South Korea
  • 6Department of Earth Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden

Abstract. Antarctica's Getz Ice Shelf has been rapidly thinning in recent years, producing more meltwater than any other ice shelf in the world. The influx of freshwater is known to substantially influence ocean circulation and biological productivity, but relatively little is known about the factors controlling basal melt rate or how it is spatially distributed beneath the ice shelf. Also unknown is the relative importance of subglacial discharge from the grounded ice sheet in contributing to the export of freshwater from the ice shelf cavity. Here we compare the observed spatial distribution of basal melt rate to a new sub-ice shelf bathymetry map inferred from airborne gravity surveys and to locations of subglacial discharge from the grounded ice sheet. We find that melt rates are high where bathymetric troughs provide a pathway for warm Circumpolar Deep Water to enter the ice shelf cavity, and that melting is enhanced where subglacial discharge freshwater flows across the grounding line. This is the first study to address the relative importance of meltwater production of the Getz Ice Shelf from both ocean and subglacial sources.

Wei Wei et al.
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Short summary
Getz Ice Shelf is the largest meltwater source from Antarctica to the Southern Ocean. This study compares the relative importance of meltwater production of Getz Ice Shelf from both ocean and subglacial sources. We show that basal melt rates are elevated where bathymetric troughs provide pathways for warm Circumpolar Deep Water to enter the Getz Ice Shelf cavity. In particular, we find that sub-shelf melting is enhanced where subglacially discharged freshwater flows across the grounding line.
Getz Ice Shelf is the largest meltwater source from Antarctica to the Southern Ocean. This study...
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