Subglacial Freshwater Drainage Increases Simulated Basal Melt of the Totten Ice Shelf

David E. Gwyther, Christine F. Dow, Stefan Jendersie, Noel Gourmelen, Benjamin K. Galton‐fenzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Subglacial freshwater discharge from beneath Antarctic glaciers likely has a strong impact on ice shelf basal melting. However, the difficulty in directly observing subglacial flow highlights the importance of modeling these processes. We use an ocean model of the Totten Ice Shelf cavity into which we inject subglacial discharge derived from a hydrology model applied to Aurora Subglacial Basin. Our results show (a) discharge increases melting in the vicinity of the outflow region, which correlates with features observed in surface elevation maps and satellite-derived melt maps, with implications for ice shelf stability; (b) the change in melting is driven by the formation of a buoyant plume rather than the addition of heat; and (c) the buoyant plume originating from subglacial discharge-driven melting is far-reaching. Basal melting induced by subglacial hydrology is thus important for ice shelf stability, but is absent from almost all ice-ocean models.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2023GL103765
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2023


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