Deformation and failure of the ice bridge on the Wilkins Ice Shelf, Antarctica

Authors: Humbert, A.; Gross, D.; Müller, R.; Braun, M.; van de Wal, R.S.W.; van den Broeke, M.R.; Vaughan, D.G.; van de Berg, W.J.

Source: Annals of Glaciology, Volume 51, Number 55, June 2010 , pp. 49-55(7)

Publisher: International Glaciological Society

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Abstract:

A narrow bridge of floating ice that connected the Wilkins Ice Shelf, Antarctica, to two confining islands eventually collapsed in early April 2009. In the month preceding the collapse, we observed deformation of the ice bridge by means of satellite imagery and from an in situ GPS station. TerraSAR-X images (acquired in stripmap mode) were used to compile a time series. The ice bridge bent most strongly in its narrowest part (westerly), while the northern end (near Charcot Island) shifted in a northeasterly direction. In the south, the ice bridge experienced compressive strain parallel to its long axis. GPS position data were acquired a little south of the narrowest part of the ice bridge from 19 January 2009. Analysis of these data showed both cyclic and monotonic components of motion. Meteorological data and re-analysis of the output of weather-prediction models indicated that easterly winds were responsible for the cyclic motion component. In particular, wind stress on the rough ice melange that occupied the area to the east exerted significant pressure on the ice bridge. The collapse of the ice bridge began with crack formation in the southern section parallel to the long axis of the ice bridge and led to shattering of the southern part. Ultimately, the narrowest part, only 900 m wide, ruptured. The formation of many small icebergs released energy of >125 × 106 J.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3189/172756410791392709

Publication date: June 1, 2010

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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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