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The control of an uncharted pinning point on the flow of an Antarctic ice shelf


Antarctic ice shelves are buttressed by numerous pinning points attaching to the otherwise freely-floating ice from below. Some of these kilometric-scale grounded features are unresolved in Antarctic-wide datasets of ice thickness and bathymetry, hampering ice flow models to fully capture dynamics at the grounding line and upstream. We investigate the role of an 8.7 km2 pinning point at the front of the Roi Baudouin Ice Shelf, East Antarctica. Using ERS interferometry and ALOS-PALSAR speckle tracking, we derive, on a 125 m grid spacing, surface velocities deviating by −5.2 ± 4.5 m a−1 from 37 on-site global navigation satellite systems-derived velocities. We find no evidence for ice flow changes on decadal time scales and we show that ice on the pinning point virtually stagnates, deviating the ice stream and causing enhanced horizontal shearing upstream. Using the BISICLES ice-flow model, we invert for basal friction and ice rigidity with three input scenarios of ice velocity and geometry. We show that inversion results are the most sensitive to the presence/absence of the pinning point in the bathymetry; surface velocities at the pinning point are of secondary importance. Undersampling of pinning points results in erroneous ice-shelf properties in models initialised by control methods. This may impact prognostic modelling for ice-sheet evolution in the case of unpinning.

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      The control of an uncharted pinning point on the flow of an Antarctic ice shelf
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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the same Creative Commons licence is included and the original work is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use.
Corresponding author
Correspondence: Sophie Berger <>
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Journal of Glaciology
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