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Present stability of the Larsen C ice shelf, Antarctic Peninsula

  • D. Jansen (a1), B. Kulessa (a1), P.R. Sammonds (a2), A. Luckman (a1), E.C. King (a3) and N.F. Glasser (a4)...

We modelled the flow of the Larsen C and northernmost Larsen D ice shelves, Antarctic Peninsula, using a model of continuum mechanics of ice flow, and applied a fracture criterion to the simulated velocities to investigate the ice shelf’s present-day stability. Constraints come from satellite data and geophysical measurements from the 2008/09 austral summer. Ice-shelf thickness was derived from BEDMAP and ICESat data, and the density–depth relationship was inferred from our in situ seismic reflection data. We obtained excellent agreements between modelled and measured ice-flow velocities, and inferred and observed distributions of rifts and crevasses. Residual discrepancies between regions of predicted fracture and observed crevasses are concentrated in zones where we assume a significant amount of marine ice and therefore altered mechanical properties in the ice column. This emphasizes the importance of these zones and shows that more data are needed to understand their influence on ice-shelf stability. Modelled flow velocities and the corresponding stress distribution indicate that the Larsen C ice shelf is stable at the moment. However, weakening of the elongated marine ice zones could lead to acceleration of the ice shelf due to decoupling from the slower parts in the northern inlets and south of Kenyon Peninsula, leading to a velocity distribution similar to that in the Larsen B ice shelf prior to its disintegration.

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Journal of Glaciology
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