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Basal and thermal control mechanisms of the Ragnhild glaciers, East Antarctica

  • Frank Pattyn (a1), Sang De Brabander (a1) and Ann Huyghe (a1)

Abstract

The Ragnhild glaciers are three enhanced-flow features situated between the Sør Rondane and Yamato Mountains in eastern Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica. We investigate the glaciological mechanisms controlling their existence and behavior, using a three-dimensional numerical thermomechanical ice-sheet model including higher-order stress gradients. This model is further extended with a steady-state model of subglacial water flow, based on the hydraulic potential gradient. Both static and dynamic simulations are capable of reproducing the enhanced ice-flow features. Although basal topography is responsible for the existence of the flow pattern, thermomechanical effects and basal sliding seem to locally soften and lubricate the ice in the main trunks. Lateral drag is a contributing factor in balancing the driving stress, as shear margins can be traced over a distance of hundreds of kilometers along west Ragnhild glacier. Different basal sliding scenarios show that central Ragnhild glacier stagnates as west Ragnhild glacier accelerates and progressively drains the whole catchment area by ice and water piracy.

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References

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