Transition to marine ice cliff instability controlled by ice thickness gradients and velocity

J. N. Bassis*, B. Berg, A. J. Crawford, D. I. Benn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Portions of ice sheets grounded deep beneath sea level can disintegrate if tall ice cliffs at the ice-ocean boundary start to collapse under their own weight. This process, called marine ice cliff instability, could lead to catastrophic retreat of sections of West Antarctica on decadal-to-century time scales. Here we use a model that resolves flow and failure of ice to show that dynamic thinning can slow or stabilize cliff retreat, but when ice thickness increases rapidly upstream from the ice cliff, there is a transition to catastrophic collapse. However, even if vulnerable locations like Thwaites Glacier start to collapse, small resistive forces from sea-ice and calved debris can slow down or arrest retreat, reducing the potential for sustained ice sheet collapse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1342-1344
Number of pages4
JournalScience
Volume372
Issue number6548
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jun 2021

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