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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 12, issue 4 | Copyright
The Cryosphere, 12, 1273-1291, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 11 Apr 2018

Research article | 11 Apr 2018

Changing pattern of ice flow and mass balance for glaciers discharging into the Larsen A and B embayments, Antarctic Peninsula, 2011 to 2016

Helmut Rott1,2, Wael Abdel Jaber3, Jan Wuite1, Stefan Scheiblauer1, Dana Floricioiu3, Jan Melchior van Wessem4, Thomas Nagler1, Nuno Miranda5, and Michiel R. van den Broeke4 Helmut Rott et al.
  • 1ENVEO IT GmbH, Innsbruck, Austria
  • 2Institute of Atmospheric and Cryospheric Sciences, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
  • 3Institute for Remote Sensing Technology, German Aerospace Center, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany
  • 4Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 5European Space Agency/ESRIN, Frascati, Italy

Abstract. We analysed volume change and mass balance of outlet glaciers on the northern Antarctic Peninsula over the periods 2011 to 2013 and 2013 to 2016, using high-resolution topographic data from the bistatic interferometric radar satellite mission TanDEM-X. Complementary to the geodetic method that applies DEM differencing, we computed the net mass balance of the main outlet glaciers using the mass budget method, accounting for the difference between the surface mass balance (SMB) and the discharge of ice into an ocean or ice shelf. The SMB values are based on output of the regional climate model RACMO version 2.3p2. To study glacier flow and retrieve ice discharge we generated time series of ice velocity from data from different satellite radar sensors, with radar images of the satellites TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X as the main source. The study area comprises tributaries to the Larsen A, Larsen Inlet and Prince Gustav Channel embayments (region A), the glaciers calving into the Larsen B embayment (region B) and the glaciers draining into the remnant part of the Larsen B ice shelf in Scar Inlet (region C). The glaciers of region A, where the buttressing ice shelf disintegrated in 1995, and of region B (ice shelf break-up in 2002) show continuing losses in ice mass, with significant reduction of losses after 2013. The mass balance numbers for the grounded glacier area of region A are −3.98±0.33Gta−1 from 2011 to 2013 and −2.38±0.18Gta−1 from 2013 to 2016. The corresponding numbers for region B are −5.75±0.45 and −2.32±0.25Gta−1. The mass balance in region C during the two periods was slightly negative, at −0.54±0.38Gta−1 and −0.58±0.25Gta−1. The main share in the overall mass losses of the region was contributed by two glaciers: Drygalski Glacier contributing 61% to the mass deficit of region A, and Hektoria and Green glaciers accounting for 67% to the mass deficit of region B. Hektoria and Green glaciers accelerated significantly in 2010–2011, triggering elevation losses up to 19.5ma−1 on the lower terminus during the period 2011 to 2013 and resulting in a mass balance of −3.88Gta−1. Slowdown of calving velocities and reduced calving fluxes in 2013 to 2016 coincided with years in which ice mélange and sea ice cover persisted in proglacial fjords and bays during summer.

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Short summary
We analysed volume change, mass balance and ice flow of glaciers draining into the Larsen A and Larsen B embayments on the Antarctic Peninsula for 2011 to 2013 and 2013 to 2016. The mass balance is based on elevation change measured by the radar satellite mission TanDEM-X and on the mass budget method. The glaciers show continuing losses in ice mass, which is a response to ice shelf break-up. After 2013 the downwasting of glaciers slowed down, coinciding with years of persistent sea ice cover.
We analysed volume change, mass balance and ice flow of glaciers draining into the Larsen A and...