A model for tidewater glacier undercutting by submarine melting
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Dynamic change at the marine-terminating margins of the Greenland Ice Sheet may be initiated by the ocean, particularly where subglacial runoff drives vigorous ice-marginal plumes and rapid submarine melting. Here we model submarine melt-driven undercutting of tidewater glacier termini, simulating a process which is key to understanding ice-ocean coupling. Where runoff emerges from broad subglacial channels we find that undercutting has only a weak impact on local submarine melt rate, but increases total ablation by submarine melting due to the larger submerged ice surface area. Thus the impact of melting is determined not only by the melt rate magnitude but also by the slope of the ice-ocean interface. We suggest that the most severe undercutting occurs at the maximum height in the fjord reached by the plume, likely promoting calving of ice above. It remains unclear however whether undercutting proceeds sufficiently rapidly to influence calving at Greenland's fastest-flowing glaciers.
Slater , D A , Nienow , P W , Goldberg , D N , Cowton , T R & Sole , A J 2017 , ' A model for tidewater glacier undercutting by submarine melting ' Geophysical Research Letters , vol 44 , no. 5 , pp. 2360-2368 . DOI: 10.1002/2016GL072374
Geophysical Research Letters
© 2017 The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
DAS is supported by a UK Natural Environmental Research Council PhD studentship (NE/L501566/1). We acknowledge NERC Grants NE/K015249/1 and NE/K014609/1 awarded to PWN and AJS respectively.
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