Ice-Shelf Response to Ice-Stream Discharge Fluctuations: III. The Effects of Ice-Stream Imbalance on the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica

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A numerical simulation of the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica, in which discharge from Ice Streams A—E is changed suddenly between extreme states, is used to investigate ice-shelf thickness and flow anomalies generated by ice-stream transience. At one extreme, ice-stream discharge rates specified as model boundary conditions are balanced individually with snow accumulation in the ice-stream catchment areas. At the other, discharge rates are fixed at current observed values which widely depart from mass balance. The simulated ice-shelf evolution between initial and final steady states suggests that ice-thickness and velocity fields adjust to new ice-stream conditions over a relatively short time span (approximately 500 years). In contrast, transitory geometrics of medial moraines and relict-crevasse bands persist over a longer time span (up to 2000 years). Contortions of medial moraines and relict-crevasse bands thus may provide a useful long-term history of past ice-stream activity. The past stoppage of Ice Stream C, for example, should be evident today in some medial moraine trajectories even if the stoppage occurred over 1000 years ago. Ice-shelf thickness fluctuations induced by ice-stream activity are generally restricted to the neighborhood of the grounding line. These fluctuations may constitute a trigger for ice-rise formation near ice-stream outlets.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 1989

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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