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Schafer M.,University of Lapland | Schafer M.,Finnish Meteorological Institute | Gillet-Chaulet F.,CNRS Laboratory for Glaciology and Environmental Geophysics | Gladstone R.,University of Lapland | And 4 more authors.
Cryosphere | Year: 2014

Understanding the response of fast flowing ice streams or outlet glaciers to changing climate is crucial in order to make reliable projections of sea level change over the coming decades. Motion of fast outlet glaciers occurs largely through basal motion governed by physical processes at the glacier bed, which are not yet fully understood. Various subglacial mechanisms have been suggested for fast flow but common to most of the suggested processes is the requirement of presence of liquid water, and thus temperate conditions.

We use a combination of modelling, field, and remote observations in order to study links between different heat sources, the thermal regime and basal sliding in fast flowing areas on Vestfonna ice cap. A special emphasis lies on Franklinbreen, a fast flowing outlet glacier which has been observed to accelerate recently. We use the ice flow model Elmer/Ice including a Weertman type sliding law and a Robin inverse method to infer basal friction parameters from observed surface velocities. Firn heating, i.e. latent heat release through percolation of melt water, is included in our model; its parameterisation is calibrated with the temperature record of a deep borehole. We found that strain heating is negligible, whereas friction heating is identified as one possible trigger for the onset of fast flow. Firn heating is a significant heat source in the central thick and slow flowing area of the ice cap and the essential driver behind the ongoing fast flow in all outlets.

Our findings suggest a possible scenario of the onset and maintenance of fast flow on the Vestfonna ice cap based on thermal processes and emphasise the role of latent heat released through refreezing of percolating melt water for fast flow. However, these processes cannot yet be captured in a temporally evolving sliding law. In order to simulate correctly fast flowing outlet glaciers, ice flow models not only need to account fully for all heat sources, but also need to incorporate a sliding law that is not solely based on the basal temperature, but also on hydrology and/or sediment physics. © 2014 Author(s). Source

Pohjola V.A.,Uppsala University | Christoffersen P.,University of Cambridge | Kolondra L.,University of Silesia | Moore J.C.,Uppsala University | And 6 more authors.
Geografiska Annaler, Series A: Physical Geography | Year: 2011

During 2007 we launched a geodetic campaign on the Svalbard ice cap Vestfonna in order to estimate the velocity field of the ice cap. This was done within the frame of the IPY project KINNVIKA. We present here the velocity measurements derived from our campaigns 2007-2010 and compare the geodetic measurements against InSAR velocity fields from satellite platforms from 1995/96 and 2008. We find the spatial distribution of ice speeds from the InSAR is in good agreement within the uncertainty limits with our geodetic measurements. We observe no clear indication of seasonal ice speed differences, but we find a speed-up of the outlet glacier Franklinbreen between the InSAR campaigns, and speculate the outlet is having a surge phase. © The authors 2011. Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography © 2011 Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography. Source

Gladstone R.,University of Lapland | Gladstone R.,University of Tasmania | Schafer M.,University of Lapland | Zwinger T.,Center for Science Ltd. | And 7 more authors.
Cryosphere | Year: 2014

The outlet glacier of Basin 3 (B3) of Austfonna ice cap, Svalbard, is one of the fastest outlet glaciers in Svalbard, and shows dramatic changes since 1995. In addition to previously observed seasonal summer speed-up associated with the melt season, the winter speed of B3 has accelerated approximately fivefold since 1995. We use the Elmer/Ice full-Stokes model for ice dynamics to infer spatial distributions of basal drag for the winter seasons of 1995, 2008 and 2011. This "inverse" method is based on minimising discrepancy between modelled and observed surface velocities, using satellite remotely sensed velocity fields. We generate steady-state temperature distributions for 1995 and 2011. Frictional heating caused by basal sliding contributes significantly to basal temperatures of the B3 outlet glacier, with heat advection (a longer-timescale process than frictional heating) also being important in the steady state.

We present a sensitivity experiment consisting of transient simulations under present-day forcing to demonstrate that using a temporally fixed basal drag field obtained through inversion can lead to thickness change errors of the order of 2 m yearg -1. Hence it is essential to incorporate the evolution of basal processes in future projections of the evolution of B3. Informed by a combination of our inverse method results and previous studies, we hypothesise a system of processes and feedbacks involving till deformation and basal hydrology to explain both the seasonal accelerations (short residence time pooling of meltwater at the ice-till interface) and the ongoing interannual speed-up (gradual penetration of water into the till, reducing till strength). © Author(s) 2014. CC Attribution 3.0 License. Source

Schafer M.,University of Lapland | Zwinger T.,Center for Science Ltd. | Zwinger T.,Beijing Normal University | Christoffersen P.,University of Cambridge | And 9 more authors.
Cryosphere | Year: 2012

The dynamics of Vestfonna ice cap (Svalbard) are dominated by fast-flowing outlet glaciers. Its mass balance is poorly known and affected dynamically by these fast-flowing outlet glaciers. Hence, it is a challenging target for ice flow modeling. Precise knowledge of the basal conditions and implementation of a good sliding law are crucial for the modeling of this ice cap. Here we use the full-Stokes finite element code Elmer/Ice to model the 3-D flow over the whole ice cap. We use a Robin inverse method to infer the basal friction from the surface velocities observed in 1995. Our results illustrate the importance of the basal friction parameter in reproducing observed velocity fields. We also show the importance of having variable basal friction as given by the inverse method to reproduce the velocity fields of each outlet glacier-a simple parametrization of basal friction cannot give realistic velocities in a forward model. We study the robustness and sensitivity of this method with respect to different parameters (mesh characteristics, ice temperature, errors in topographic and velocity data). The uncertainty in the observational parameters and input data proved to be sufficiently small as not to adversely affect the fidelity of the model. ©2012 Author(s). Source

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