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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  28 Jul 2020

28 Jul 2020

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A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

Subglacial topography and ice flux along the English Coast of Palmer Land, Antarctic Peninsula

Kate Winter, Emily A. Hill, G. Hilmar Gudmundsson, and John Woodward Kate Winter et al.
  • Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Engineering and Environment, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Abstract. Recent satellite data have revealed widespread grounding line retreat, glacier thinning, and associated mass loss along the Bellingshausen Sea sector, leading to increased concern for the stability of this region of Antarctica. While satellites have greatly improved our understanding of surface conditions, a lack of radio-echo sounding (RES) data in this region has restricted our analysis of subglacial topography, ice thickness and ice flux. In this paper we analyse 3,000 km of 150 MHz airborne RES data collected using the PASIN2 radar system (flown at 3–5 km line spacing) to investigate the subglacial controls on ice flow near to the grounding lines of Ers, Envisat, Cryosat, Grace, Sentinel, Lidke and Landsat ice streams as well as Hall and Nikitin glaciers. We find that each outlet is topographically controlled, and when ice thickness is combined with surface velocity data from MEaSUREs (Mouiginot et al., 2019), these outlets are found to discharge over 39.2 ± 0.79 Gt a−1 of ice to floating ice shelves and the Southern Ocean. Our RES measurements reveal that outlet flows are grounded more than 300 m below sea level, and that there is limited topographic support for inland grounding line re-stabilisation in a future retreating scenario, with several ice stream beds dipping inland at ~ 5 degrees per km. These data reinforce the importance of accurate bed topography to model and understand the controls on inland ice flow and grounding line position as well as overall mass balance / sea level change estimates. RES data described in this paper are available through the UK Polar Data Center: (Corr and Robinson, 2020).

Kate Winter et al.

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Kate Winter et al.

Data sets

Airborne radio-echo sounding of the English Coast, western Palmer Land, Antarctic Peninsula (2016/17 season) Hugh Corr and Carl Robinson

Kate Winter et al.


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Short summary
Satellite measurements of the English Coast in the Antarctic Peninsula reveal that glaciers are thinning and losing mass, but ice thickness data is required to assess these changes, in terms of ice flux, and sea level contribution. Our ice penetrating radar measurements reveal that low-elevation subglacial channels control fast-flowing ice streams, which release over 38 gigatons of ice per year to floating ice shelves. This topography could make ice flows susceptible to future instability.
Satellite measurements of the English Coast in the Antarctic Peninsula reveal that glaciers are...