Massive destabilization of an Arctic ice cap

Michael J. Willis, Whyjay Zheng, William J. Durkin, Matthew E. Pritchard, Joan M. Ramage, Julian A. Dowdeswell, Toby J. Benham, Robin P. Bassford, Leigh A. Stearns, Andrey F. Glazovsky, Yuri Y. Macheret, Claire C. Porter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

Ice caps that are mostly frozen at the bedrock-ice interface are thought to be stable and respond slowly to changes in climate. We use remote sensing to measure velocity and thickness changes that occur when the margin of the largely cold-based Vavilov Ice Cap in the Russian High Arctic advances over weak marine sediments. We show that cold-based to polythermal glacier systems with no previous history of surging may evolve with unexpected and unprecedented speed when their basal boundary conditions change, resulting in very large dynamic ice mass losses (an increase in annual mass loss by a factor of ∼100) over a few years. We question the future long-term stability of cold and polythermal polar ice caps, many of which terminate in marine waters as the climate becomes warmer and wetter in the polar regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-155
Number of pages10
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume502
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 15 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was partly supported by NASA grants NNX11AR14G and NNX12AO31G, the Overseas Ph.D. scholarship granted by the Ministry of Education, Taiwan (W.Z.) and a NASA Earth and Space Sciences Fellowship (W.J.D.). WorldView imagery was provided by the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota, which is supported by NSF Grants 1043681, 1559691, & 1542736. Landsat data is downloaded via the USGS tool EarthExplorer. We thank the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Research Computing group for providing computational resources that have contributed to these research results. We thank Geir Moholdt for the cleaned ICESat elevations. Acquisition of airborne radar data on ice thickness was funded by UK NERC grant GR3/9958. All DEMs used during this project are available from the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota (www.arcticdem.org), or from the lead author.

Funding Information:
This work was partly supported by NASA grants NNX11AR14G and NNX12AO31G , the Overseas Ph.D. scholarship granted by the Ministry of Education, Taiwan (W.Z.) and a NASA Earth and Space Sciences Fellowship (W.J.D.). WorldView imagery was provided by the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota, which is supported by NSF Grants 1043681 , 1559691 , & 1542736 . Landsat data is downloaded via the USGS tool EarthExplorer. We thank the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Research Computing group for providing computational resources that have contributed to these research results. We thank Geir Moholdt for the cleaned ICESat elevations. Acquisition of airborne radar data on ice thickness was funded by UK NERC grant GR3/9958 . All DEMs used during this project are available from the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota ( www.arcticdem.org ), or from the lead author.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.

Keywords

  • Arctic
  • glaciers
  • glaciology
  • remote sensing

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