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Speedup and fracturing of George VI Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula

DOI: 10.5194/tcd-7-373-2013

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Abstract:

George VI Ice Shelf (GVIIS) is located on the Antarctic Peninsula, a region where several ice shelves have undergone rapid breakup in response to atmospheric and oceanic warming. We use a combination of optical (Landsat), radar (ERS 1/2 SAR) and laser altimetry (GLAS) datasets to examine the response of GVIIS to environmental change and to offer an assessment on its future stability. The spatial and structural changes of GVIIS (ca. 1973 to ca. 2010) are mapped and surface velocities are calculated at different time periods (InSAR and optical feature tracking from 1989 to 2009) to document changes in the ice shelf's flow regime. Surface elevation changes are recorded between 2003 and 2008 using repeat track ICESat acquisitions. We note an increase in fracture extent and distribution at the south ice front, ice-shelf acceleration towards both the north and south ice fronts and spatially varied negative surface elevation change throughout, with greater variations observed towards the central and southern regions of the ice shelf. We propose that whilst GVIIS is in no imminent danger of collapse, it is vulnerable to on-going atmospheric and oceanic warming and is more susceptible to breakup along its southern margin in ice preconditioned for further retreat.

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