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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 12, issue 7 | Copyright
The Cryosphere, 12, 2401-2411, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 24 Jul 2018

Research article | 24 Jul 2018

Modelled fracture and calving on the Totten Ice Shelf

Sue Cook1, Jan Åström2, Thomas Zwinger2, Benjamin Keith Galton-Fenzi3,1, Jamin Stevens Greenbaum4, and Richard Coleman5,1 Sue Cook et al.
  • 1Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 80, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia
  • 2CSC – IT Center for Science Ltd., 02101 Espoo, Finland
  • 3Australian Antarctic Division, Kingston, Tasmania 7050, Australia
  • 4Institute for Geophysics, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78758, USA
  • 5Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 129, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia

Abstract. The Totten Ice Shelf (IS) has a large drainage basin, much of which is grounded below sea level, leaving the glacier vulnerable to retreat through the marine ice sheet instability mechanism. The ice shelf has also been shown to be sensitive to changes in calving rate, as a very small retreat of the calving front from its current position is predicted to cause a change in flow at the grounding line. Therefore understanding the processes behind calving on the Totten IS is key to predicting its future sea level rise contribution. Here we use the Helsinki Discrete Element Model (HiDEM) to show that not all of the fractures visible at the front of the Totten IS are produced locally, but that the across-flow basal crevasses, which are part of the distinctive cross-cutting fracture pattern, are advected into the calving front area from upstream. A separate simulation of the grounding line shows that re-grounding points may be key areas of basal crevasse production, and can produce basal crevasses in both an along- and across-flow orientation. The along-flow basal crevasses at the grounding line may be a possible precursor to basal channels, while we suggest the across-flow grounding-line fractures are the source of the across-flow features observed at the calving front. We use two additional models to simulate the evolution of basal fractures as they advect downstream, demonstrating that both strain and ocean melt have the potential to deform narrow fractures into the broad basal features observed near the calving front. The wide range of factors which influence fracture patterns and calving on this glacier will be a challenge for predicting its future mass loss.

Publications Copernicus
Short summary
The growth of fractures on Antarctic ice shelves is important because it controls the amount of ice lost as icebergs. We use a model constructed of multiple interconnected blocks to predict the locations where fractures will form on the Totten Ice Shelf in East Antarctica. The results show that iceberg calving is controlled not only by fractures forming near the front of the ice shelf but also by fractures which formed many kilometres upstream.
The growth of fractures on Antarctic ice shelves is important because it controls the amount of...