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Oceanic heat flux, on-shelf flow and basal melting of the Totten Glacier, East Antarctica

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 12:40 authored by David Gwyther, Benjamin Galton-FenziBenjamin Galton-Fenzi, John HunterJohn Hunter, Jason RobertsJason Roberts
The Totten glacier and ice stream drains a large proportion of the Antarctic Ice Sheet, much of it grounded below sea level and susceptible to rapid mass loss. Increased basal melting reduces the buttressing effect of the ice shelf, leading to accelerated glacial flow and thinning. The state of the grounded ice sheet is therefore susceptible to changes in ocean heat flux and circulation. The Totten glacier has recently been observed to be thinning (at 1.9 m/yr). It is believed that the change exhibited by the Totten glacier is from changes in oceanic forcing - but the details, extent and magnitude of the interaction is unknown. Here we present a model, based on the Regional Ocean Modelling System, that has been developed to simulate the interaction between the Totten ice shelf and the ocean, with the aim of pinpointing causal factors of basal melting. Publicly available bathymetry and ice thickness datasets provide the geometry while the model is forced by currents, tides, buoyancy fluxes and wind on the surface and lateral boundaries. Analysis of model output shows basal melt rates in agreement with glaciological estimates. Ocean currents simulated by the model supply significant heat across the continental shelf break and into the topographic basin in front of the ice shelf. Therefore this study links basal melt of the Totten ice shelf to ocean heat transport. This is the first such modelling study of this region, and will provide valuable information for directing future observational missions.


Publication title

Strategic Science in Antarctica conference program


Strategic Science in Antarctica Program Committee


Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Australian Antarctic Division and Antarctica New Zealand

Place of publication

Hobart, Australia

Event title

Strategic Science in Antarctica

Event Venue

Hobart, Australia

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Antarctic and Southern Ocean oceanic processes

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    University Of Tasmania