Interannual velocity variations and recent calving of Thwaites Glacier Tongue, West Antarctica
Abstract:The surface velocity of Thwaites Glacier (TG), West Antarctica, during the period 1992–2000 is measured with synthetic aperture radar feature-tracking techniques. We find no indication of interannual velocity variations of the grounded ice further than about 20 km inland of the grounding line. The velocity of the floating TG Tongue shows cyclical variations with an amplitude of 10%; a minimum around 1997 is bracketed by similarly sized maxima in 1995 and 2000. The observed velocity variations can be explained by time-dependent rotation and deformation superimposed on the steady flow of TG Tongue. The orientation of the rotation is clockwise during the entire observation period; the mean center of the rotation is close to a small ice rise, situated at the east side of the tongue about 20 km past the grounding line. The recent calving of TG Tongue in February 2002 is consistent with continued clockwise rotation that eventually led to cracking from west to east across the tongue. The rotation and deformation of TG Tongue is caused by forces unrelated to glacier dynamics. Analysis of European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts wind data suggests a synoptic-scale origin for the external forcing that causes the rotation.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2003-01-01
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