The impact of landfast sea ice buttressing on ice dynamic speedup in the Larsen-B Embayment, Antarctica
Abstract. We observe the evacuation of 11-year old land-fast sea ice in the Larsen-B Embayment on the East Antarctic Peninsula in January 2022, which was in part triggered by warm atmospheric conditions and strong offshore winds. This evacuation of sea ice was closely followed by major changes in the calving behaviour and dynamics of the ocean-terminating glaciers in the region. Following a decade of gradual slow-down, satellite measurements show that Hektoria, Green and Crane Glaciers have sped up by approximately 20–50 % since February 2022, each increasing in speed by more than 100 m a-1. Circumstantially, this is attributable to the loss of floating ice/mélange tongues and their transition into tidewater glaciers. However, a question remains as to whether the landfast sea ice itself could have acted to provide direct buttressing to the glaciers prior to its disintegration. We use diagnostic model simulations to estimate the buttressing effect of the land-fast sea ice in the Larsen-B Embayment and its impact on the speed of Hektoria, Green, Evans and Crane Glaciers. The results show that direct sea ice buttressing had a negligible impact on the dynamics of the grounded ice streams. Additionally, our results show that the loss of sea ice buttressing likely produced noticeable changes to the flow speeds of the rheologically weak ice tongues, which could have diminished their stability over time. However, as the accompanying changes in viscous stress were small compared to local spatial variation, this loss of buttressing is likely to have been a secondary process in the disintegration of the ice tongues compared to, for example, increased ocean melting or swell.
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