What can radar-based measures of subglacial hydrology tell us about basal shear stress? A case study at Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica

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Rohaiz Haris, Winnie Chu, Alexander Robel


Ice sheet models use observations to infer basal shear stress, but the variety of methods and datasets available has resulted in a wide range of estimates. Radar-based metrics such as reflectivity and specularity have been used to characterize subglacial hydrologic conditions that are linked to spatial variations in basal shear stress. We explore whether radar metrics can be used to inform models about basal shear stress. At Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica, we sample basal shear stress inversions across a wide range of ice sheet models to see how the basal shear stress distribution changes in regions of varying reflectivity and specularity. Our results reveal three key findings: (1) Regions of high specularity exhibit lower mean basal shear stresses (2) Wet and bumpy regions, as characterized by high reflectivity and low specularity, exhibit higher mean basal shear stresses (3) Models disagree about what basal shear stress should be at the onset of rapid ice flow and high basal melt where reflectivity is low.




Earth Sciences, Glaciology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


glaciers, Radar Sounding, subglacial hydrology, Ice Sheet Modelling, Antarctica, ice sheets


Published: 2023-08-29 11:42

Last Updated: 2023-08-29 18:42


CC-BY Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International

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