Nivlisen, an Antarctic ice shelf in Dronning Maud Land: geodetic–glaciological results from a combined analysis of ice thickness, ice surface height and ice-flow observations

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Extensive observations on Nivlisen, an ice shelf on Antarctica's Atlantic coast, are analyzed and combined to obtain a new description of its complex glaciological regime. We generate models of ice thickness (primarily from ground-penetrating radar), ellipsoidal ice surface height (primarily from ERS-1 satellite altimetry), freeboard height (by utilizing precise sea surface information) and ice-flow velocity (from ERS-1/-2 SAR interferometry and GPS measurements). Accuracy assessments are included. Exploiting the hydrostatic equilibrium relation, we infer the 'apparent air layer thickness' as a useful measure for a glacier's density deviation from a pure ice body. This parameter exhibits a distinct spatial variation (ranging from ≈2 to ≈16 m) which we attribute to the transition from an ablation area to an accumulation area. We compute mass-flux and mass-balance parameters on a local and areally integrated scale. The combined effect of bottom mass balance and temporal change averaged over an essential part of Nivlisen is −654 ± 170 kg m−2 a−1, which suggests bottom melting processes dominate. We discuss our results in view of temporal ice-mass changes (including remarks on historical observations), basal processes, near-surface processes and ice-flow dynamical features. The question of temporal changes remains open from the data at hand, and we recommend further observations and analyses for its solution.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2006

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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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