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Subaqueous calving margin morphology at Mueller, Hooker and Tasman glaciers in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand

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The subaqueous margins of calving glaciers have the potential to make significant contributions to glacier mass loss. However, to date, very little is known about the morphology and development of subaqueous margins. A unique combination of sub-bottom profile and bathymetric data collected between 2008 and 2010 in proglacial lakes at Mueller, Hooker and Tasman glaciers in New Zealand's Southern Alps reveal subaqueous ice ramps extending up to 510 m from the terminus of each glacier. Ice ramp surfaces are undulating and covered with a thick layer (up to 10 m) of unsorted sediment derived from supraglacial and englacial debris, lateral moraines and deltaic deposits. A cyclic calving pattern, relatively stable lake level and the debris cover appear to control the development and maintenance of these ice ramps. High subaerial retreat rates generally correspond to high subaqueous calving rates, although the highest subaerial retreat rates are not associated with the largest ice ramp. Debris mantling the subaqueous ice ramp surfaces insulates the ice from melting and also reduces buoyant forces acting on the terminus. Comparisons with previous studies show that the ice ramps evolve over time with changes in glacier dynamics and water-body properties.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2012-12-01

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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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