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Title: Revealing the former bed of Thwaites Glacier using sea-floor bathymetry: implications for warm-water routing and bed controls on ice flow and buttressing
Abstract. The geometry of the sea floor immediately beyondAntarctica's marine-terminating glaciers is a fundamental control onwarm-water routing, but it also describes former topographic pinning pointsthat have been important for ice-shelf buttressing. Unfortunately, thisinformation is often lacking due to the inaccessibility of these areas forsurvey, leading to modelled or interpolated bathymetries being used asboundary conditions in numerical modelling simulations. At Thwaites Glacier(TG) this critical data gap was addressed in 2019 during the first cruise ofthe International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC) project. We present more than 2000 km2 of new multibeamecho-sounder (MBES) data acquired in exceptional sea-ice conditionsimmediately offshore TG, and we update existing bathymetric compilations.The cross-sectional areas of sea-floor troughs are under-predicted by up to40 % or are not resolved at all where MBES data are missing, suggesting thatcalculations of trough capacity, and thus oceanic heat flux, may besignificantly underestimated. Spatial variations in the morphology oftopographic highs, known to be former pinning points for the floating iceshelf of TG, indicate differences in bed composition that are supported bylandform evidence. We discuss links to ice dynamics for an overriding icemass including a potential positive feedback mechanism where erosion ofsoft erodible highs may lead to ice-shelf ungrounding even with littleor no ice thinning. Analyses of more » bed roughnesses and basal drag contributionsshow that the sea-floor bathymetry in front of TG is an analogue for extantbed areas. Ice flow over the sea-floor troughs and ridges would have beenaffected by similarly high basal drag to that acting at the grounding zonetoday. We conclude that more can certainly be gleaned from these 3Dbathymetric datasets regarding the likely spatial variability of bedroughness and bed composition types underneath TG. This work also addressesthe requirements of recent numerical ice-sheet and ocean modelling studiesthat have recognised the need for accurate and high-resolution bathymetry todetermine warm-water routing to the grounding zone and, ultimately, forpredicting glacier retreat behaviour. « less
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Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
The Cryosphere
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
2883 to 2908
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  2. Abstract

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