Transition to marine ice cliff instability controlled by ice thickness gradients and velocity
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Portions of ice sheets grounded deep beneath sea level can disintegrate if tall ice cliffs at the ice-ocean boundary start to collapse under their own weight. This process, called marine ice cliff instability, could lead to catastrophic retreat of sections of West Antarctica on decadal-to-century time scales. Here we use a model that resolves flow and failure of ice to show that dynamic thinning can slow or stabilize cliff retreat, but when ice thickness increases rapidly upstream from the ice cliff, there is a transition to catastrophic collapse. However, even if vulnerable locations like Thwaites Glacier start to collapse, small resistive forces from sea-ice and calved debris can slow down or arrest retreat, reducing the potential for sustained ice sheet collapse.
Bassis , J N , Berg , B , Crawford , A J & Benn , D I 2021 , ' Transition to marine ice cliff instability controlled by ice thickness gradients and velocity ' , Science , vol. 372 , no. 6548 , pp. 1342-1344 . https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abf6271
Copyright © 2021 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. This work has been made available online in accordance with publisher policies or with permission. Permission for further reuse of this content should be sought from the publisher or the rights holder. This is the author created accepted manuscript following peer review and may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abf6271
DescriptionFunding: This work is from the DOMINOS project, a component of the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC). Support came from NSF grant 1738896 and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) grant NE/S006605/1. Logistics were provided by NSF–U.S. Antarctic Program and NERC–British Antarctic Survey. This study is ITGC contribution no. ITGC-044.
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