The effect of landfast sea ice buttressing on ice dynamic speedup in the Larsen B embayment, Antarctica

Trystan Surawy-Stepney*, Anna E. Hogg, Stephen L. Cornford, Benjamin J. Wallis, Benjamin J. Davison, Heather L. Selley, Ross A.W. Slater, Elise K. Lie, Livia Jakob, Andrew Ridout, Noel Gourmelen, Bryony I.D. Freer, Sally F. Wilson, Andrew Shepherd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

We observe the evacuation of 11-year-old landfast 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 a subset of the ocean-terminating glaciers in the region. We show using satellite measurements that, following a decade of gradual slow-down, Hektoria, Green, and Crane glaciers sped up by approximately 20%-50% between February and the end of 2022, each increasing in speed by more than 100ma-1. Circumstantially, this is attributable to their transition into tidewater glaciers following the loss of their ice shelves after the landfast sea ice evacuation. However, a question remains as to whether the landfast sea ice could have influenced the dynamics of these glaciers, or the stability of their ice shelves, through a buttressing effect akin to that of confined ice shelves on grounded ice streams. We show, with a series of diagnostic modelling experiments, that direct landfast sea ice buttressing had a negligible impact on the dynamics of the grounded ice streams. Furthermore, we suggest that the loss of landfast sea ice buttressing could have impacted the dynamics of the rheologically weak ice shelves, in turn diminishing their stability over time; however, the accompanying shifts in the distributions of resistive stress within the ice shelves would have been minor. This indicates that this loss of buttressing by landfast sea ice is likely to have been a secondary process in the ice shelf disaggregation compared to, for example, increased ocean swell or the drivers of the initial landfast sea ice disintegration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)977-993
Number of pages17
JournalCryosphere
Volume18
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2024

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