A Speed Limit on Ice Shelf Collapse Through Hydrofracture
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A Speed Limit on Ice Shelf Collapse Through Hydrofracture

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  • Source:
    Geophysical Research Letters, 46, 12092-12100.
Filetype[PDF-1.77 MB]

  • Description:
    Increasing surface melt has been implicated in the collapse of several Antarctic ice shelves over the last few decades, including the collapse of Larsen B Ice Shelf over a period of just a few weeks in 2002. The speed at which an ice shelf disintegrates strongly determines the subsequent loss of grounded ice and sea level rise, but the controls on collapse speed are not well understood. Here we show, using a novel cellular automaton model, that there is an intrinsic speed limit on ice shelf collapse through cascades of interacting melt pond hydrofracture events. Though collapse speed increases with the area of hydrofracture influence, the typical flexural length scales of Antarctic ice shelves ensure that hydrofracture interactions remain localized. We argue that the speed at which Larsen B Ice Shelf collapsed was caused by a season of anomalously high surface meltwater production.
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