Variability in the mass flux of the Ross ice streams, West Antarctica, over the last millennium

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We synthesize previously published remote-sensing observations, radar data and model output to obtain a ∼1000 year ice flow history for the Siple Coast ice-stream system in West Antarctica to investigate the timing and magnitude of changes in mass flux. The synthesized history shows significant short-term variability in ice-stream shear margin and grounding line position due to internal variability of the coupled system. The chronology highlights the interplay between adjacent ice streams, which implies that the behavior of any individual ice stream should not be examined in isolation. Furthermore, individual events cannot be fully interpreted without an understanding of the broad-scale, long-term variability in the ice sheet. In the context of this millennium-scale history, we interpret the relatively recent stagnation of Kamb Ice Stream (KIS) as just one stage in the thermodynamic cycle of an ice stream in this region. The changes in mass balance that result from the KIS stagnation may thus be viewed as century-scale 'noise' relative to the longer-term trend. Understanding and characterizing this noise is a necessary step before accurate model-based predictions of ice-sheet mass balance for the next century can be made.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2012

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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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