Assessment of ice flow dynamics in the zone close to the calving front of Antarctic ice shelves

Wearing, Martin G ; Hindmarsh, Richard CA ; Worster, Michael Grae (2015-12-01)


We investigate the relationship between four ice-shelf characteristics in the area close to the calving front: ice flow speed, strain rate, ice thickness and shelf width. Data are compiled for these glaciological parameters at the calving fronts of 22 Antarctic ice shelves. Clarification concerning the viscous supply of ice to the calving front is sought following the empirical calving law of Alley and others (2008), derived from a similar but smaller dataset, and the scaling analysis of Hindmarsh (2012). The dataset is analysed and good agreement is observed between the expected theoretical scaling and geophysical data for the flow of ice near the calving front in the case of ice shelves that are laterally confined and have uniform rheology. The lateral confinement ensures flow is aligned in the along-shelf direction, and uniform rheological parameters mean resistance to flow is provided by near-stationary ice in the grounded margins. In other cases, the velocity is greater than predicted, which we attribute to marginal weakening or the presence of ice tongues.