Recent ice dynamic and surface mass balance of Union Glacier in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet
- 1Centro de Estudios Científicos, P.O. Box 5110466, Valdivia, Chile
- 2Departamento de Geografía, Universidad de Chile, P.O. Box 3387, Santiago, Chile
- 3Instituto Antártico Chileno, Punta Arenas, Chile
Abstract. Here we present the results of a comprehensive glaciological investigation of Union Glacier (79°46' S/83°24' W) in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), a major outlet glacier within the Ellsworth Mountains. Union Glacier flows into the Ronne Ice Shelf, where recent models have indicated the potential for significant grounding line zone (GLZ) migrations in response to changing climate and ocean conditions. To elaborate a glaciological base line that can help to evaluate the potential impact of this GLZ change scenario, we installed an array of stakes on Union Glacier in 2007. The stake network has been surveyed repeatedly for elevation, velocity, and net surface mass balance. The region of the stake measurements is in near-equilibrium, and ice speeds are 10 to 33 m a−1. Ground-penetrating radars (GPR) have been used to map the subglacial topography, internal structure, and crevasse frequency and depth along surveyed tracks in the stake site area. The bedrock in this area has a minimum elevation of −858 m a.s.l., significantly deeper than shown by BEDMAP2 data. However, between this deeper area and the local GLZ, there is a threshold where the subglacial topography shows a maximum altitude of 190 m. This subglacial condition implies that an upstream migration of the GLZ will not have strong effects on Union Glacier until it passes beyond this shallow ice pinning point.