Reassessing the flow law of glacier ice using satellite observations

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Authors

Joanna Millstein, Brent Minchew , Samuel S Pegler 

Abstract

Accurate representation of the viscous flow of ice is fundamental to understanding glacier dynamics and projecting sea-level rise. Ice viscosity is often described by a simple but largely untested and uncalibrated constitutive relation, Glen’s Flow Law, wherein the rate of deformation is proportional to stress raised to the power n. The value n = 3 is commonly prescribed in ice-flow models, though observations and experiments support a range of values across stresses and temperatures found on Earth. Here, we leverage recent remotely-sensed observations of Antarctic ice shelves to show that Glen’s Flow Law approximates the viscous flow of ice with n = 4.1 ± 0.4 in fast-flowing areas. The viscosity and flow rate of ice are therefore more sensitive to changes in stress than most ice-flow models allow.

DOI

https://doi.org/10.31223/X5D32X

Subjects

Glaciology

Keywords

Glaciology, Constitutive equations

Dates

Published: 2021-08-12 15:13

Last Updated: 2021-08-12 22:13

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License

CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:
None

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