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Ocean stratification and low melt rates at the Ross Ice Shelf grounding zone


Begeman, CB and Tulaczyk, SM and Marsh, OJ and Mikucki, JA and Stanton, TP and Hodson, TO and Siegfried, MR and Powell, RD and Christianson, K and King, MA, Ocean stratification and low melt rates at the Ross Ice Shelf grounding zone, Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 123, (10) pp. 7438-7452. ISSN 2169-9275 (2018) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright Statement

2018. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

DOI: doi:10.1029/2018JC013987


Ocean‐driven melting of ice shelves is a primary mechanism for ice loss from Antarctica. However, due to the difficulty in accessing the sub‐ice shelf ocean cavity, the relationship between ice shelf melting and ocean conditions is poorly understood, particularly near the grounding zone, where the ice transitions from grounded to floating. We present the first borehole oceanographic observations from the grounding zone of the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica's largest ice shelf by area. Contrary to predictions that tidal currents near grounding zones mix the water column, we found that Ross Ice Shelf waters were vertically stratified. Current velocities at middepth in the ocean cavity did not change significantly over measurement periods at two different parts of the tidal cycle. The observed stratification resulted in low melt rates near this portion of the grounding zone, inferred from phase‐sensitive radar observations. These melt rates were generally <10 cm/year, which is lower than average for the Ross Ice Shelf (∼20 cm/year). Melt rates may be higher at portions of the grounding zone that experience higher subglacial discharge or stronger tidal mixing. Stratification in the cavity at the borehole site was prone to diffusive convection as a result of ice shelf melting. Since diffusive convection influences vertical heat and salt fluxes differently than shear‐driven turbulence, this process may affect ice shelf melting and merits further consideration in ocean models of sub‐ice shelf circulation.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:ice-ocean interactions, ice shelf, Antarctica, double diffusion, grounding zone, ocean mixing, Ross Ice Shelf
Research Division:Engineering
Research Group:Geomatic engineering
Research Field:Satellite-based positioning
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the earth sciences
UTAS Author:King, MA (Professor Matt King)
ID Code:128889
Year Published:2018
Web of Science® Times Cited:30
Deposited By:Geography and Spatial Science
Deposited On:2018-10-22
Last Modified:2022-08-23
Downloads:80 View Download Statistics

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