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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-2019-46
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-46
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 03 Apr 2019

Submitted as: research article | 03 Apr 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of this manuscript was accepted for the journal The Cryosphere (TC) and is expected to appear here in due course.

Calving cycle of the Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica, driven by changes in ice-shelf geometry

Jan De Rydt1, G. Hilmar Gudmundsson1, Thomas Nagler2, and Jan Wuite2 Jan De Rydt et al.
  • 1Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  • 2ENVEO – Environmental Earth Observation, Innsbruck, Austria

Abstract. Despite the potentially detrimental impact of large-scale calving events on the geometry and ice flow of the Antarctic Ice Sheet, little is known about the processes that drive rift formation prior to calving, or what controls the timing of these events. The Brunt Ice Shelf in East Antarctica presents a rare natural laboratory to study these processes, following the recent formation of two rifts, each now exceeding 50 km in length. Here we use a unique 50-years' time series of in-situ and remote sensing observations, together with numerical modelling, to reveal how slow changes in ice shelf geometry over time caused build-up of mechanical tension far upstream of the ice front, and culminated in rift formation and a significant speed-up of the ice shelf. These internal feedbacks, whereby ice shelves generate the very conditions that lead to their own (partial) disintegration are currently missing from ice flow models, which severely limits their ability to accurately predict future sea level rise.

Jan De Rydt et al.
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Interactive discussion
Status: closed
Status: closed
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
Printer-friendly Version - Printer-friendly version Supplement - Supplement
Jan De Rydt et al.
Jan De Rydt et al.
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Short summary
A large section of the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica is about break off. The rifting started several years ago and is now approaching its final phase. Using satellite data and computer simulations, we show that the imminent calving is part of the ice shelf's natural life cycle. Over time, growth of the ice shelf has caused a build-up of forces within the ice, which culminated in its fracture. This previously unstudied process enhances our general understanding of iceberg formation in Antarctica.
A large section of the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica is about break off. The rifting started...
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