Subglacial thermal balance permits ongoing grounding-line retreat along the Siple Coast of West Antarctica

Byron R. Parizek, Richard B. Alley, Christina L. Hulbe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Changes in the discharge of West Antarctic ice streams are of potential concern with respect to global sea level. The six relatively thin, fast-flowing Ross ice streams are of interest as low-slope end-members among Antarctic ice streams. Extensive research has demonstrated that these "rivers of ice" have a history of relatively high-frequency (≤ 0(100) years), asynchronous discharge variations with evolving lateral boundaries. Amidst this variability, a ∼1300 km grounding-line retreat has occurred since the Last Glacial Maximum. Numerical studies of Ice Stream D (Parizek and others, 2002) indicate that a proposed thermal-regulation mechanism (Clarke and Marshall, 1998; Hulbe and MacAyeal, 1999; Tulaczyk and others, 2000a,b), with could buffer the West Antarctic ice sheet against complete collapse, may be over-ridden by latent-heat transport within melt-water from beneath inland ice. Extending these studies to Ice Stream A, Whillans Ice Stream and Ice Stream C suggests that further grounding-line retreat contributing to sea-level rise is possible thermodynamically However, the efficiency of basal water distribution may be a constraint on the system. Because local thermal deficits promote basal freeze-on (especially on topographic highs), observed short-term variability is likely to persist.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-256
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Glaciology
StatePublished - 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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