Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2023-2956
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2023-2956
04 Jan 2024
 | 04 Jan 2024

Inland migration of near-surface crevasses in the Amundsen Sea Sector, West Antarctica

Andrew O. Hoffman, Knut Christianson, Ching-Yao Lai, Ian Joughin, Nicholas Holschuh, Elizabeth Case, Jonathan Kingslake, and the GHOST science team

Abstract. Since distributed satellite observations of elevation change and velocity became available in the 1990s, Thwaites, Pine Island, Haynes, Pope, and Kohler Glaciers, located in Antarctica’s Amundsen Sea Embayment, have thinned and accelerated in response to ocean-induced melting and grounding-line retreat. We develop a crevasse image segmentation algorithm to identify and map surface crevasses on the grounded portions of Thwaites, Pine Island, Haynes, Pope, and Kohler Glaciers between 2015 and 2022 using Sentinel-1A satellite synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery. We also develop a geometric model for firn tensile strength dependent on porosity and the tensile strength of ice. On Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers, which have both accelerated since 2015, crevassing has expanded tens of kilometers upstream of the 2015 extent. From the crevasse time series, we find that crevassing is strongly linked to principal surface stresses and consistent with von Mises fracture theory predictions. Our geometric model, analysis of SAR, and optical imagery, together with ice-penetrating radar data, suggest that these crevasses are near-surface features restricted to the firn. The porosity dependence of the near-surface tensile strength of the ice sheet may explain discrepancies between the tensile strength inferred from remotely-sensed surface crevasse observations and tensile strength measured in laboratory experiments, which often focus on ice (rather than firn) fracture. The near-surface nature of these features suggests that the expansion of crevasses inland has a limited direct impact on glacier mechanics.

Andrew O. Hoffman, Knut Christianson, Ching-Yao Lai, Ian Joughin, Nicholas Holschuh, Elizabeth Case, Jonathan Kingslake, and the GHOST science team

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-2956', Anonymous Referee #1, 31 Jan 2024
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-2956', Anonymous Referee #2, 05 Feb 2024
  • RC3: 'Crevasse Thoughts on egusphere-2023-2956', William Colgan, 07 Feb 2024
  • RC4: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-2956', Anonymous Referee #4, 08 Feb 2024
Andrew O. Hoffman, Knut Christianson, Ching-Yao Lai, Ian Joughin, Nicholas Holschuh, Elizabeth Case, Jonathan Kingslake, and the GHOST science team
Andrew O. Hoffman, Knut Christianson, Ching-Yao Lai, Ian Joughin, Nicholas Holschuh, Elizabeth Case, Jonathan Kingslake, and the GHOST science team

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Short summary
We use satellite and ice-penetrating radar technology to segment crevasses in the Amundsen Sea Embayment. Inspection of satellite time series reveals inland expansion of crevasses where surface stresses have increased. We develop a simple model for the strength of densifying snow and show that these crevasses are likely restricted to the near surface. This result bridges discrepancies between satellite and lab experiments and reveals the importance of porosity on surface crevasse formation.