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Basal melt beneath Whillans Ice Stream and Ice Streams A and C, West Antarctica

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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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  • 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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