Articles | Volume 5, issue 1
The Cryosphere, 5, 125–134, 2011
The Cryosphere, 5, 125–134, 2011

Research article 01 Mar 2011

Research article | 01 Mar 2011

The imbalance of glaciers after disintegration of Larsen-B ice shelf, Antarctic Peninsula

H. Rott1,2, F. Müller2, T. Nagler2, and D. Floricioiu3 H. Rott et al.
  • 1Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics, University of Innsbruck, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
  • 2ENVEO IT GmbH, Technikerstrasse 21a, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
  • 3German Aerospace Center, Remote Sensing Technology Institute, 82234 Wessling, Germany

Abstract. The outlet glaciers to the embayment of the Larsen-B Ice Shelf started to accelerate soon after the ice shelf disintegrated in March 2002. We analyse high resolution radar images of the TerraSAR-X satellite, launched in June 2007, to map the motion of outlet glaciers in detail. The frontal velocities are used to estimate the calving fluxes for 2008/2009. As reference for pre-collapse conditions, when the glaciers were in balanced state, the ice fluxes through the same gates are computed using ice motion maps derived from interferometric data of the ERS-1/ERS-2 satellites in 1995 and 1999. Profiles of satellite laser altimetry from ICESat, crossing the terminus of several glaciers, indicate considerable glacier thinning between 2003 and 2007/2008. This is taken into account for defining the calving cross sections. The difference between the pre- and post-collapse fluxes provides an estimate on the mass imbalance. For the Larsen-B embayment the 2008 mass deficit is estimated at 4.34 ± 1.64 Gt a−1, significantly lower than previously published values. The ice flow acceleration follows a similar pattern on the various glaciers, gradually decreasing in magnitude with distance upstream from the calving front. This suggests stress perturbation at the glacier front being the main factor for acceleration. So far there are no signs of slow-down indicating that dynamic thinning and frontal retreat will go on.