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Iceberg calving from the Amery Ice Shelf, East Antarctica

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Abstract:

We investigate the iceberg-calving cycle of the Amery Ice Shelf (AIS), East Antarctica, using evidence acquired between 1936 and 2000. The most recent major iceberg-calving event occurred between late 1963 and early 1964, when a large berg totalling about 10000 km2 in area broke from the ice front. The rate of forward advance of the ice front is presently 1300-1400 m a-1. At this rate of advance, based on the present ice front position from recent RADARSAT imagery, it would take 20-25 years to attain the 1963 (pre-calve) position, suggesting that the AIS calving cycle has a period of approximately 60-70 years. Two longitudinal (parallel-to-flow) rifts, approximately 25 km apart at the AIS front, are observed in satellite imagery acquired over the last 14+ years. These rifts have formed at suture zones in the ice shelf, where neighbouring flow-bands have separated in association with transverse spreading. The rifts were 15 km (rift A) and 26 km (rift B) in length in September 2000, and will probably become the sides of a large tabular iceberg (25 km × 25 km). A transverse (perpendicular-to-flow) fracture, visible at the upstream end of rift A in 1996, had propagated 6 km towards rift B by September 2000; when it meets rift B the iceberg will calve. A satellite image acquired in 1962 shows an embayment of this size in the AIS front, hence we deduce that this calving pattern also occurred during the last calving cycle, and therefore that the calving behaviour of the AIS apparently follows a regular pattern.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3189/172756402781817581

Publication date: January 1, 2002

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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