Pine Island Glacier - local flow mechanisms and basal sliding

Thomas.Kleiner [ at ]


Pine Island Glacier is a fast moving outlet glacier in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Several tributaries feeding the central ice stream characterise the flow field structure of this glacier. In the past decades the glacier has shown acceleration, thinning and a significant grounding line retreat. These ongoing processes are coinciding with a concentrated mass loss in the area around Pine Island Glacier, the Amundsen Sea Embayment. The area is of additional interest due to its retrograde bed slope. The postulated instability of the setting turns the glacier into an even more suitable object for modelling studies. One major challenge encountered when modelling the flow field of Pine Island Glacier is to reproduce the locally varying flow pattern, with its many tributaries. Commonly this difficulty is overcome by inversion for parameters controlling basal sliding. Our study is aimed at connecting basal sliding again to physical parameters. To achieve this we conduct experiments of Pine Island Glacier with the diagnostic 3D full-Stokes model COMice. The model is thermo-mechanically coupled and implemented with the commercial finite-element package COMSOL Multiphysics©. We use remotely sensed surface velocity data to validate our results. In a first step, the model is used to identify dominant local mechanisms that drive the flow of the different tributaries. We identify connections between the basal topography, the basal temperature, the driving stress and the basal roughness distribution. The thus gained information is used to confine basal sliding. Areas with similar qualitative characteristics are identified, and constant-sliding assumptions made for those. Additionally, the basal roughness distribution is matched onto a basal sliding parameter. This way the sliding law is again brought closer to its original meaning. Our results are important for prognostic model experiments, as we connect basal sliding to locally varying basal properties, which might lead to different responses of the tributaries to altered external forcing.

Item Type
Conference (Poster)
Primary Division
Primary Topic
Peer revision
Not peer-reviewed
Publication Status
Event Details
AGU Fall Meeting, 09 Dec 2013 - 13 Dec 2013, San Francisco.
Eprint ID
Cite as
Wilkens, N. , Kleiner, T. and Humbert, A. (2013): Pine Island Glacier - local flow mechanisms and basal sliding , AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, 9 December 2013 - 13 December 2013 .


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