Mass balance of East Antarctic glaciers and ice shelves from satellite data
Abstract:The velocity and mass discharge of nine major East Antarctic glaciers not draining into the Ross or Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelves is investigated using interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) data from the European Remote-sensing Satellite 1 and 2 (ERS-1/2) and RADARSAT-1.The glaciers are: David, Ninnis, Mertz, Totten, Scott, Denman, Lambert, Shirase and Stancomb-Wills. InSAR is used to locate their grounding line with precision. Ice velocity is measured with either InSAR or a speckle-tracking technique. Ice thickness is deduced from prior-determined ice-shelf elevation assuming hydrostatic equilibrium. Mass fluxes are calculated both at the grounding line and at a flux gate located downstream. The grounding-line flux is compared to a mass input calculated from snow accumulation to deduce the glacier mass balance. The calculation is repeated at the flux gate downstream of the grounding line to estimate the average bottom melt rate of the ice shelf under steady-state conditions. The main results are: (1) Grounding lines are found several tens of km upstream of prior-identified positions, not because of a recent ice-sheet retreat but because of the inadequacy of prior-determined grounding-line positions. (2) No gross imbalance between outflow and inflow is detected on the nine glaciers being investigated, with an uncertainty of 10-20%. Prior-determined, largely positive mass imbalances were due to an incorrect localization of the grounding line. (3) High rates of bottom melting (24 ± 7 m ice a-1) are inferred near grounding zones, where ice reaches the deepest draft. A few glaciers exhibit lower bottom melt rates (4 ± 7 m ice a-1). Bottom melting, however, appears to be a major source of mass loss on Antarctic ice shelves.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: January 1, 2002
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