Spatial and temporal variations in basal melting at Nivlisen ice shelf, East Antarctica, derived from phase-sensitive radars

Lindbäck, Katrin; Moholdt, Geir; Nicholls, Keith W.; Hattermann, Tore; Pratap, Bhanu; Thamban, Meloth; Matsuoka, Kenichi

Thinning rates of ice shelves vary widely around Antarctica, and basal melting is a major component of ice shelf mass loss. In this study, we present records of basal melting at a unique spatial and temporal resolution for East Antarctica, derived from autonomous phase-sensitive radars. These records show spatial and temporal variations of basal melting in 2017 and 2018 at Nivlisen, an ice shelf in central Dronning Maud Land. The annually averaged basal melt rates are in general moderate (inline-formula∼0.8 m yrinline-formula−1). Radar profiling of the ice shelf shows variable ice thickness from smooth beds to basal crevasses and channels. The highest basal melt rates (3.9 m yrinline-formula−1) were observed close to a grounded feature near the ice shelf front. Daily time-varying measurements reveal a seasonal melt signal 4 km from the ice shelf front, at an ice draft of 130 m, where the highest daily basal melt rates occurred in summer (up to 5.6 m yrinline-formula−1). In comparison with wind, air temperatures, and sea ice cover from reanalysis and satellite data, the seasonality in basal melt rates indicates that summer-warmed ocean surface water was pushed by wind beneath the ice shelf front. We observed a different melt regime 35 km into the ice shelf cavity, at an ice draft of 280 m, with considerably lower basal melt rates (annual average of 0.4 m yrinline-formula−1) and no seasonality. We conclude that warm deep-ocean water at present has a limited effect on the basal melting of Nivlisen. On the other hand, a warming in surface waters, as a result of diminishing sea ice cover, has the potential to increase basal melting near the ice shelf front. Continuous in situ monitoring of Antarctic ice shelves is needed to understand the complex mechanisms involved in ice shelf–ocean interactions.

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Lindbäck, Katrin / Moholdt, Geir / Nicholls, Keith W. / et al: Spatial and temporal variations in basal melting at Nivlisen ice shelf, East Antarctica, derived from phase-sensitive radars. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Katrin Lindbäck et al.

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