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Controls on the recent speed-up of Jakobshavn Isbrae, West Greenland

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Abstract:

Jakobshavn Isbrae, West Greenland, underwent a large, rapid and not well understood change in flow dynamics in 1998, leading to a doubling of its ice discharge rates. We calculate the width-averaged forces controlling flow of Jakobshavn Isbrae in 1995, 2000 and 2005 to elucidate processes responsible for this change in flow speed. In contrast to earlier suggestions, we conclude that the observed acceleration was not caused by the loss of back-stress due to weakening and subsequent break-up of the floating ice tongue alone. Gradients in longitudinal stress are small at all times considered (∼3% of the driving stress) and basal and lateral drag provide resistance to flow. Over the 10 year period considered, the average driving stress increased by 20 kPa, which was balanced by a comparable increase in lateral drag. We surmise that the velocity changes resulted from weakening of the ice in the lateral shear margins and perhaps a change in properties at the bed. Possible mechanisms for weakening of ice in the lateral shear margins include cryo-hydrologic warming of subsurface ice in the ablation zone and hydraulic weakening due to higher water content of ice in the shear margins.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3189/002214311797409776

Publication date: September 1, 2011

More about this publication?
  • 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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