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Seasonal dynamics of Totten Ice Shelf controlled by sea ice buttressing

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 21:04 authored by Greene, CA, Young, DA, David Gwyther, Benjamin Galton-FenziBenjamin Galton-Fenzi, Blankenship, DD
Previous studies of Totten Ice Shelf have employed surface velocity measurements to estimate its mass balance and understand its sensitivities to interannual changes in climate forcing. However, displacement measurements acquired over timescales of days to weeks may not accurately characterize long-term flow rates wherein ice velocity fluctuates with the seasons. Quantifying annual mass budgets or analyzing interannual changes in ice velocity requires knowing when and where observations of glacier velocity could be aliased by subannual variability. Here, we analyze 16 years of velocity data for Totten Ice Shelf, which we generate at subannual resolution by applying feature-tracking algorithms to several hundred satellite image pairs. We identify a seasonal cycle characterized by a spring to autumn speedup of more than 100 m yr−1 close to the ice front. The amplitude of the seasonal cycle diminishes with distance from the open ocean, suggesting the presence of a resistive back stress at the ice front that is strongest in winter. Springtime acceleration precedes summer surface melt and is not attributable to thinning from basal melt. We attribute the onset of ice shelf acceleration each spring to the loss of buttressing from the breakup of seasonal landfast sea ice.


Publication title

The Cryosphere










Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Copernicus GmbH

Place of publication


Rights statement

Copyright 2018 the authors. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Antarctic and Southern Ocean oceanic processes

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