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Dynamic instability of marine-terminating glacier basins of Academy of Sciences Ice Cap, Russian High Arctic

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Ice sheets and smaller ice caps appear to behave in dynamically similar ways; both contain slow-moving ice that is probably frozen to the bed, interspersed with fast-flowing ice streams and outlet glaciers that terminate into the ocean. Academy of Sciences Ice Cap (Akademii Nauk ice cap; 5570 km2), Severnaya Zemlya, Russian High Arctic, provides a clear example of this varied flow regime. We have combined satellite measurements of elevation change and surface velocity to show that variable ice-stream dynamics dominate the mass balance of the ice cap. Since 1988, the ice cap has lost 58 16 Gt of ice, corresponding to ∼3% of its mass or 0.16 mm of sea-level rise. The climatic mass balance is estimated to be close to zero, and terminus positions have remained stable to within a few kilometers, implying that almost all mass loss has occurred through iceberg calving. The ice-cap calving rate increased from ∼0.6 Gt a–1 in 1995 to ∼3.0 Gt a–1 in 2000–02, but has recently decreased to ∼1.4 Gt a–1 due to a likely slowdown of the largest ice stream. Such highly variable calving rates have not been reported before from High Arctic ice caps, suggesting that these ice masses may be less stable than previously thought.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2012-11-01

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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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