Basal melt beneath Whillans Ice Stream and Ice Streams A and C, West Antarctica
Abstract:We have used a recently derived map of the velocity of Whillans Ice Stream and Ice Streams A and C, West Antarctica, to help estimate basal melt. Ice temperature was modeled with a simple vertical advection–diffusion equation, "tuned" to match temperature profiles. We find that most of the melt occurs beneath the tributaries, where larger basal shear stresses and thicker ice favor greater melt (e.g. 10–20 mm a-1). The occurrence of basal freezing is predicted beneath much of the ice plains of Ice Stream C and Whillans Ice Stream. Modeled melt rates for when Ice Stream C was active suggest there was enough meltwater generated in its tributaries to balance basal freezing on its ice plain. Net basal melt for Whillans Ice Stream is greater due to less steep basal temperature gradients. Modeled temperatures on Whillans Ice Stream, however, were constrained by a single temperature profile at UpB. Basal temperature gradients for Whillans branch 1 and Ice Stream A may have conditions more similar to those beneath Ice Streams C and D, in which case, there may not be sufficient melt to sustain motion. This would be consistent with the steady deceleration of Whillans Ice Stream over the last few decades.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: January 1, 2003
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