Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2024-1132
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2024-1132
22 Apr 2024
 | 22 Apr 2024
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Basal channels, ice thinning and grounding zone retreat at Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica

Allison M. Chartrand, Ian M. Howat, Ian R. Joughin, and Benjamin E. Smith

Abstract. Antarctic ice shelves buttress the flow of the ice sheet, tempering sea level rise, but they are vulnerable to basal melting from contact with the ocean, as well as mass loss due to fracture and calving. Melt channels and similar features at the bases of ice shelves have been linked to enhanced basal melting and observed to intersect the grounding line, where the greatest melt rates are often observed. The ice shelf of Thwaites Glacier is especially vulnerable to melt and subsequent retreat of the grounding line because the glacier has an inland–sloping bed leading to a deep trough below the grounded ice sheet. We use digital surface models from 2010–2022 to investigate the evolution of ice–shelf basal channels and a proxy for the grounding line on the Thwaites Glacier ice shelf. We find that the highest sustained rates of grounding–line retreat (up to 0.7 km a-1) are associated with high melt rates (up to ~250 m a-1) near the intersections of basal channels with the grounding zone, steep local retrograde slopes, and where subglacial channel discharge is expected. Detailed observations of basal channels collocated with regions of grounding–line retreat will further elucidate the complicated processes occurring at the ice–ocean interface and hopefully lead to more accurate estimates of current and future ice–shelf melting and evolution.

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Allison M. Chartrand, Ian M. Howat, Ian R. Joughin, and Benjamin E. Smith

Status: open (until 13 Jun 2024)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2024-1132', Adrian Luckman, 23 May 2024 reply
Allison M. Chartrand, Ian M. Howat, Ian R. Joughin, and Benjamin E. Smith

Data sets

Basal channels, ice thinning and grounding zone retreat at Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica, draft dataset+code Allison Chartrand https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.10969572

Allison M. Chartrand, Ian M. Howat, Ian R. Joughin, and Benjamin E. Smith

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Short summary
This study uses high-resolution remote sensing data to show that shrinking of the West Antarctic Thwaites Glacier’s ice shelf (floating extension) is exacerbated by the presence of sub–ice shelf meltwater channels that form as the glacier transitions from full contact with the bed to fully floating. In mapping these channels, the position of the transition zone, and thinning rates of the Thwaites Glacier, this work elucidates important processes driving its rapid contribution to sea level rise.