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Conditions for the reversal of ice/air surface slope on ice streams and shelves: a model study

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Reversals in the ice/air surface slope are important in geomorphic and glaciological contexts, thus motivating consideration of the conditions under which they form. Surface slope reversals are seen in numerous places, such as ice rumples on ice shelves, as surficial lakes, and at the down-glacier end of Vostok lake, Antarctica. Such slope reversals can reduce or reverse the subglacial hydrological gradient, thereby rerouting subglacial water transport and possibly leading to the creation of subglacial lakes. Supraglacial lakes produced by slope reversals in ablation zones may aid in driving water-filled cracks that allow surface water access to the bed. Surface slope reversals, in the absence of a concomitant reversal in ice flow, indicate a local violation of the so-called 'shallow-ice' approximation, and in this circumstance the longitudinal deviatoric stress becomes critical in the stress equilibrium. Using a simple numerical model, we have explored the conditions under which surface slope reversals form for certain simple scenarios. The results indicate that ice which initially possesses a normal slope will tend toward a reversed slope if the ice is thinned, the bed is strengthened or the downstream buttressing is increased.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2005

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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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