Articles | Volume 9, issue 3
Research article
04 Jun 2015
Research article |  | 04 Jun 2015

Evolution of ice-shelf channels in Antarctic ice shelves

R. Drews

Abstract. Ice shelves buttress the continental ice flux and mediate ice–ocean interactions. They are often traversed by channels in which basal melting is enhanced, impacting ice-shelf stability. Here, channel evolution is investigated using a transient, three-dimensional full Stokes model and geophysical data collected on the Roi Baudouin Ice Shelf (RBIS), Antarctica. The modeling confirms basal melting as a feasible mechanism for channel creation, although channels may also advect without melting for many tens of kilometers. Channels can be out of hydrostatic equilibrium depending on their width and the upstream melt history. Inverting surface elevation for ice thickness using hydrostatic equilibrium in those areas is erroneous, and corresponding observational evidence is presented at RBIS by comparing the hydrostatically inverted ice thickness with radar measurements. The model shows that channelized melting imprints the flow field characteristically, which can result in enhanced horizontal shearing across channels. This is exemplified for a channel at RBIS using observed surface velocities and opens up the possibility to classify channelized melting from space, an important step towards incorporating these effects in ice–ocean models.

Short summary
Floating ice shelves extend the continental ice of Antarctica seawards and mediate ice-ocean interactions. Many ice shelves are incised with channels where basal melting is enhanced. With data and modeling it is shown how the channel geometry depends on basal melting and along-flow advection (also for channels which are not freely floating), and how channel formation imprints the general flow pattern. This opens up the opportunity to map the channel formation from surface velocities only.