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Interannual velocity variations and recent calving of Thwaites Glacier Tongue, West Antarctica

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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

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3189/172756403781816176

Publication date: 2003-01-01

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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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