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  1. Abstract

    The flow speed of the Greenland Ice Sheet changes dramatically in inland regions when surface meltwater drains to the bed. But ice-sheet discharge to the ocean is dominated by fast-flowing outlet glaciers, where the effect of increasing surface melt on annual discharge is unknown. Observations of a supraglacial lake drainage at Helheim Glacier, and a consequent velocity pulse propagating down-glacier, provide a natural experiment for assessing the impact of changes in injected meltwater, and allow us to interrogate the subglacial hydrological system. We find a highly efficient subglacial drainage system, such that summertime lake drainage has little net effect on ice discharge. Our results question the validity of common remote-sensing approaches for inferring subglacial conditions, knowledge of which is needed for improved projections of sea-level rise.

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  2. Abstract. The net rate of snow accumulation b is predicted to increase over large areas of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets as the climate warms. Models disagree on how this will affect the thickness of the firn layer – the relatively low-density upper layer of the ice sheets that influences altimetric observations of ice sheet mass change and palaeo-climate reconstructions from ice cores. Here we examine how b influences firn compaction and porosity in a simplified model that accounts for mass conservation, dry firn compaction, grain-size evolution, and the impact of grain size on firn compaction. Treating b as a boundary condition and employing an Eulerian reference frame helps to untangle the factors controlling the b dependence of firn thickness. We present numerical simulations using the model, as well as simplified steady-state approximations to the full model, to demonstrate how the downward advection of porosity and grain size are both affected by b but have opposing impacts on firn thickness. The net result is that firn thickness increases with b and that the strength of this dependence increases with increasing surface grain size. We also quantify the circumstances under which porosity advection and grain-size advection balance exactly, which counterintuitively renders steady-state firn thickness independent of b. These findings are qualitatively independent of the stress-dependence of firn compaction and whether the thickness of the ice sheet is increasing, decreasing, or steady. They do depend on the grain-size dependence of firn compaction. Firn models usually ignore grain-size evolution, but we highlight the complex effect it can have on firn thickness when included in a simplified model. This work motivates future efforts to better observationally constrain the rheological effect of grain size in firn. 
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  3. Abstract. We combine a glacier outburst flood model with a glacier flow model to investigate decadal to centennial variations in outburst floods originating from ice-dammed marginal basins. Marginal basins can form due to the retreat and detachment of tributary glaciers, a process that often results in remnant ice being left behind. The remnant ice, which can act like an ice shelf or break apart into a pack of icebergs, limits a basin's water storage capacity but also exerts pressure on the underlying water and promotes drainage. We find that during glacier retreat there is a strong, nearly linear relationship between flood water volume and peak discharge for individual basins, despite large changes in glacier and remnant ice volumes that are expected to impact flood hydrographs. Consequently, peak discharge increases over time as long as there is remnant ice remaining in a basin, and peak discharge begins to decrease once a basin becomes ice-free. Thus, similar size outburst floods can occur at very different stages of glacier retreat. We also find that the temporal variability in outburst flood magnitude depends on how the floods initiate. Basins that connect to the subglacial hydrological system only after reaching flotation depth yield greater long-term variability in outburst floods than basins that are continuously connected to the subglacial hydrological system (and therefore release floods that initiate before reaching flotation depth). Our results highlight the importance of improving our understanding of both changes in basin geometry and outburst flood initiation mechanisms in order to better assess outburst flood hazards and their impacts on landscape and ecosystem evolution. 
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  4. Abstract

    To increase inclusivity, diversity, equity and accessibility in Antarctic science, we must build more positive and inclusive Antarctic field work environments. The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC) has engaged in efforts to contribute to that goal through a variety of activities since 2018, including creating an open-access ‘Field and Ship Best Practices’ guide, engaging in pre-field season team dynamics meetings, and surveying post-field season reflections and experiences. We report specific actions taken by ITGC and their outcomes. We found that strong and supported early career researchers brought new and important perspectives regarding strategies for transforming culture. We discovered that engaged and involved senior leadership was also critical for expanding participation and securing funding to support efforts. Pre-field discussions involving all field team members were particularly helpful for setting expectations, improving sense of belonging, describing field work best practices, and co-creating a positive work culture.

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  5. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Surface melting on Amery Ice Shelf (AIS), East Antarctica, produces an extensive supraglacial drainage system consisting of hundreds of lakes connected by surface channels. This drainage system forms most summers on the southern portion of AIS, transporting meltwater large distances northward, toward the ice front and terminating in lakes. Here we use satellite imagery, Landsat (1, 4 and 8), MODIS multispectral and Sentinel-1 synthetic aperture radar to examine the seasonal and interannual evolution of the drainage system over nearly five decades (1972–2019). We estimate seasonal meltwater input to one lake by integrating output from the regional climate model [Regional Atmospheric Climate Model (RACMO 2.3p2)] over its catchment defined using the Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica. We find only weak positive relationships between modeled seasonal meltwater input and lake area and between meltwater input and lake volume. Consecutive years of extensive melting lead to year-on-year expansion of the drainage system, potentially through a link between melt production, refreezing in firn and the maximum extent of the lakes at the downstream termini of drainage. These mechanisms are important when evaluating the potential of drainage systems to grow in response to increased melting, delivering meltwater to areas of ice shelves vulnerable to hydrofracture. 
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  6. Abstract The stress balance within an ice shelf is key to the resistance, or buttressing, it can provide and in part controls the rate of ice discharge from the upstream ice sheet. Unconfined ice shelves are widely assumed to provide no buttressing. However, theory and laboratory-scale analogue experiments have shown that unconfined, floating viscous flows generate buttressing via hoop stresses. Hoop stress results from the viscous resistance to spreading perpendicular to the flow direction in a diverging flow. We build on theoretical work to explore the controls on the magnitude of hoop-stress buttressing, deducing that buttressing increases with increasing effective viscosity and increasing divergence. We use an idealised model calibrated to unconfined sections of Antarctic ice shelves and find that many shelves have low effective viscosity, most likely due to extensive damage resulting from high extensional stresses. Therefore, they are unable to sustain the large hoop stresses required to resist flow. Some ice shelves that are surrounded by sea ice year-round have a greater effective viscosity and can provide buttressing, suggesting that sea ice reduces fracturing. However, we find that most unconfined ice shelves provide insignificant buttressing today, even when hoop stresses are considered in the stress balance. 
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  9. Abstract

    Surface meltwater accumulating on Antarctic ice shelves can drive fractures through to the ocean and potentially cause their collapse, leading to increased ice discharge from the continent. Implications of increasing surface melt for future ice shelf stability are inadequately understood. The southern Amery Ice Shelf has an extensive surface hydrological system, and we present data from satellite imagery and ICESat‐2 showing a rapid surface disruption there in winter 2019, covering ∼60 km2. We interpret this as an ice‐covered lake draining through the ice shelf, forming an ice doline with a central depression reaching 80 m depth amidst over 36 m uplift. Flexural rebound modeling suggests 0.75 km3of water was lost. We observed transient refilling of the doline the following summer with rapid incision of a narrow meltwater channel (20 m wide and 6 m deep). This study demonstrates how high‐resolution geodetic measurements can explore critical fine‐scale ice shelf processes.

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