Rapid accelerations of Antarctic Peninsula outlet glaciers driven by surface melt
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Atmospheric warming is increasing surface melting across the Antarctic Peninsula, with unknown impacts upon glacier dynamics at the ice-bed interface. Using high-resolution satellite-derived ice velocity data, optical satellite imagery and regional climate modelling, we show that drainage of surface meltwater to the bed of outlet glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula occurs and triggers rapid ice flow accelerations (up to 100% greater than the annual mean). This provides a mechanism for this sector of the Antarctic Ice Sheet to respond rapidly to atmospheric warming. We infer that delivery of water to the bed transiently increases basal water pressure, enhancing basal motion, but efficient evacuation subsequently reduces water pressure causing ice deceleration. Currently, melt events are sporadic, so efficient subglacial drainage cannot be maintained, resulting in multiple short-lived (<6 day) ice flow perturbations. Future increases in meltwater could induce a shift to a glacier dynamic regime characterised by seasonal-scale hydrologically-driven ice flow variations.
Tuckett , P A , Ely , J C , Sole , A J , Livingstone , S J , Davison , B J , Melchior van Wessem , J & Howard , J 2019 , ' Rapid accelerations of Antarctic Peninsula outlet glaciers driven by surface melt ' , Nature Communications , vol. 10 , 4311 . https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-12039-2
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DescriptionJ.C.E. acknowledges a NERC independent research fellowship grant number NE/R014574/1. J.M.W. acknowledges financial contributions made by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (grant 866.15.201) and the Netherlands Earth System Science Center (NESSC).
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