Subaqueous melt rates at calving termini: a laboratory approach

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Numerous field and theoretical studies have pointed to an important role for subaqueous and waterline melting in the dynamics of calving glaciers. These processes remain unquantified because of the dangerous nature of the environment, a data gap which hampers both theoretical and numerical modelling studies. Here we report laboratory experiments designed to quantify waterline and subaqueous ice-melt rates in saline and fresh water. Experiments were conducted at temperatures of 1-10degreesC, a range typical of ice-contact environments, and at salinities of 0,17.5 and 35 ppt. Results indicate that melt rates are slightly faster under fresh-water conditions' and that different thermohaline combinations can produce contrasting ice-front geometries. Thermo-notches develop quickly at higher temperatures (>4degreesC), and form most rapidly and to a greater extent in saline water. Contrasts in melt rates and ice-front geometry are controlled by temperature-driven density contrasts and circulation patterns. Rates of up to 0.8 m d(-1) suggest that mass loss by subaqueous melting is a significant process at calving termini.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-183
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of Glaciology
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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