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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 12, issue 6 | Copyright
The Cryosphere, 12, 2039-2050, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-12-2039-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 15 Jun 2018

Research article | 15 Jun 2018

Bathymetric controls on calving processes at Pine Island Glacier

Jan Erik Arndt1, Robert D. Larter2, Peter Friedl3, Karsten Gohl1, Kathrin Höppner3, and the Science Team of Expedition PS104* Jan Erik Arndt et al.
  • 1Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Am Handelshafen 12, 27570 Bremerhaven, Germany
  • 2British Antarctic Survey, High Cross Madingley Road, Cambridge, CB3 0ET, UK
  • 3German Aerospace Center (DLR), German Remote Sensing Data Center, Oberpfaffenhofen, Münchener Str. 20, 82234 Wessling, Germany
  • *A full list of authors and their affiliations appears at the end of the paper.

Abstract. Pine Island Glacier is the largest current Antarctic contributor to sea-level rise. Its ice loss has substantially increased over the last 25 years through thinning, acceleration and grounding line retreat. However, the calving line positions of the stabilising ice shelf did not show any trend within the observational record (last 70 years) until calving in 2015 led to unprecedented retreat and changed the alignment of the calving front. Bathymetric surveying revealed a ridge below the former ice shelf and two shallower highs to the north. Satellite imagery shows that ice contact on the ridge was likely lost in 2006 but was followed by intermittent contact resulting in back stress fluctuations on the ice shelf. Continuing ice-shelf flow also led to occasional ice-shelf contact with the northern bathymetric highs, which initiated rift formation that led to calving. The observations show that bathymetry is an important factor in initiating calving events.

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The calving line location of the Pine Island Glacier did not show any trend within the last 70 years until calving in 2015 led to unprecedented retreat. In February 2017 we accessed this previously ice-shelf-covered area with RV Polarstern and mapped the sea-floor topography for the first time. Satellite imagery of the last decades show how the newly mapped shoals affected the ice shelf development and highlights that sea-floor topography is an important factor in initiating calving events.
The calving line location of the Pine Island Glacier did not show any trend within the last 70...
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