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Using distributed temperature sensors to monitor an Antarctic ice shelf and sub-ice-shelf cavity

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Abstract:

Monitoring of ice-shelf and sub-ice-shelf ocean temperatures represents an important component in understanding ice-sheet stability. Continuous monitoring is challenging due to difficult surface access, difficulties in penetrating the ice shelf, and the need for long-term operation of nonrecoverable sensors. We aim to develop rapid lightweight drilling and near-continuous fiber-optic temperature-monitoring methods to meet these challenges. During November 2011, two instrumented moorings were installed within and below the McMurdo Ice Shelf (a sub-region of the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica) at Windless Bight. We used a combination of ice coring for the upper portion of each shelf borehole and hot-point drilling for penetration into the ocean. The boreholes provided temporary access to the ice-shelf cavity, into which distributed temperature sensing (DTS) fiber-optic cables and conventional pressure/temperature transducers were installed. The DTS moorings provided near-continuous (in time and depth) observations of ice and ocean temperatures to a depth of almost 800 m beneath the ice-shelf surface. Data received document the presence of near-freezing water throughout the cavity from November through January, followed by an influx of warmer water reaching ∼150 m beneath the ice-shelf base during February and March. The observations demonstrate prospects for achieving much higher spatial sampling of temperature than more conventional oceanographic moorings.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3189/2013JoG12J207

Publication date: 2013-08-01

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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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