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  1. Abstract Pine Island Ice Shelf (PIIS) buttresses the Pine Island Glacier, the key contributor to sea-level rise. PIIS has thinned owing to ocean-driven melting, and its calving front has retreated, leading to buttressing loss. PIIS melting depends primarily on the thermocline variability in its front. Furthermore, local ocean circulation shifts adjust heat transport within Pine Island Bay (PIB), yet oceanic processes underlying the ice front retreat remain unclear. Here, we report a PIB double-gyre that moves with the PIIS calving front and hypothesise that it controls ocean heat input towards PIIS. Glacial melt generates cyclonic and anticyclonic gyres near and off PIIS, and meltwater outflows converge into the anticyclonic gyre with a deep-convex-downward thermocline. The double-gyre migrated eastward as the calving front retreated, placing the anticyclonic gyre over a shallow seafloor ridge, reducing the ocean heat input towards PIIS. Reconfigurations of meltwater-driven gyres associated with moving ice boundaries might be crucial in modulating ocean heat delivery to glacial ice.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023
  2. Abstract

    Understanding the recent history of Thwaites Glacier, and the processes controlling its ongoing retreat, is key to projecting Antarctic contributions to future sea-level rise. Of particular concern is how the glacier grounding zone might evolve over coming decades where it is stabilized by sea-floor bathymetric highs. Here we use geophysical data from an autonomous underwater vehicle deployed at the Thwaites Glacier ice front, to document the ocean-floor imprint of past retreat from a sea-bed promontory. We show patterns of back-stepping sedimentary ridges formed daily by a mechanism of tidal lifting and settling at the grounding line at a time when Thwaites Glacier was more advanced than it is today. Over a duration of 5.5 months, Thwaites grounding zone retreated at a rate of >2.1 km per year—twice the rate observed by satellite at the fastest retreating part of the grounding zone between 2011 and 2019. Our results suggest that sustained pulses of rapid retreat have occurred at Thwaites Glacier in the past two centuries. Similar rapid retreat pulses are likely to occur in the near future when the grounding zone migrates back off stabilizing high points on the sea floor.

  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  4. 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 ofmore »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