The Cryosphere

Journal Information
ISSN / EISSN : 1994-0416 / 1994-0424
Published by: Copernicus GmbH (10.5194)
Total articles ≅ 2,220
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Marceau Hénot, Vincent J. Langlois, Jérémy Vessaire, Nicolas Plihon, Nicolas Taberlet
Published: 29 June 2022
The Cryosphere, Volume 16, pp 2617-2628;

Glacier tables are structures frequently encountered on temperate glaciers. They consist of a rock supported by a narrow ice foot which forms through differential melting of the ice. In this article, we investigate their formation by following their dynamics on the Mer de Glace (the Alps, France). We report field measurements of four specific glacier tables over the course of several days, as well as snapshot measurements of a field of 80 tables performed on a given day. We develop a simple model accounting for the various mechanisms of the heat transfer on the glacier using local meteorological data, which displays a quantitative agreement with the field measurements. We show that the formation of glacier tables is controlled by the global heat flux received by the rocks, which causes the ice underneath to melt at a rate proportional to the one of the surrounding ice. Under large rocks the ice ablation rate is reduced compared to bare ice, leading to the formation of glacier tables. This thermal insulation effect is due to the warmer surface temperature of rocks compared to the ice, which affects the net long-wave and turbulent fluxes. While the short-wave radiation, which is the main source of heat, is slightly more absorbed by the rocks than the ice, it plays an indirect role in the insulation by inducing a thermal gradient across the rocks which warms them. Under a critical size, however, rocks can enhance ice melting and consequently sink into the ice surface. This happens when the insulation effect is too weak to compensate for a geometrical amplification effect: the external heat fluxes are received on a larger surface than the contact area with the ice. We identified the main parameters controlling the ability of a rock to form a glacier table: the rock thickness, its aspect ratio, and the ratio between the averaged turbulent and short-wave heat fluxes.
, Christin Hilbich, , Pablo A. Wainstein,
Published: 28 June 2022
The Cryosphere, Volume 16, pp 2595-2615;

With ongoing climate change, there is a pressing need to better understand how much water is stored as ground ice in areas with extensive permafrost occurrence, as well as how the regional water balance may alter in response to the potential generation of meltwater from permafrost degradation. However, field-based data on permafrost in remote and mountainous areas such as the South American Andes are scarce. Most current ground ice estimates are based on broadly generalized assumptions such as volume–area scaling and mean ground ice content estimates of rock glaciers. In addition, ground ice contents in permafrost areas outside of rock glaciers are usually not considered, resulting in a significant uncertainty regarding the volume of ground ice in the Andes and its hydrological role. In Part 1 of this contribution, Hilbich et al. (2022a) present an extensive geophysical data set based on electrical resistivity tomography and refraction seismic tomography surveys to detect and quantify ground ice of different landforms and surface types in several study regions in the semi-arid Andes of Chile and Argentina with the aim to contribute to the reduction of this data scarcity. In Part 2 we focus on the development of a strategy for the upscaling of geophysics-based ground ice quantification to an entire catchment to estimate the total ground ice volume (and its approximate water equivalent) in the study areas. In addition to the geophysical data, the upscaling approach is based on a permafrost distribution model and classifications of surface and landform types. In this paper, we introduce our upscaling strategy, and we demonstrate that the estimation of large-scale ground ice volumes can be improved by including (i) non-rock-glacier permafrost occurrences and (ii) field evidence through a large number of geophysical surveys and ground truthing information. The results of our study indicate that (i) conventional ground ice estimates for rock-glacier-dominated catchments without in situ data may significantly overestimate ground ice contents and (ii) substantial volumes of ground ice may also be present in catchments where rock glaciers are lacking.
, Daniel L. Feltham, , Yanan Wang, , Jeff K. Ridley, Yevgeny Aksenov
Published: 28 June 2022
The Cryosphere, Volume 16, pp 2565-2593;

Sea ice is composed of discrete units called floes. Observations show that these floes can adopt a range of sizes spanning orders of magnitude, from metres to tens of kilometres. Floe size impacts the nature and magnitude of interactions between the sea ice, ocean, and atmosphere including lateral melt rate and momentum and heat exchange. However, large-scale geophysical sea ice models employ a continuum approach and traditionally either assume floes adopt a constant size or do not include an explicit treatment of floe size. In this study we apply novel observations to analyse two alternative approaches to modelling a floe size distribution (FSD) within the state-of-the-art CICE sea ice model. The first model considered is a prognostic floe size–thickness distribution where the shape of the distribution is an emergent feature of the model and is not assumed a priori. The second model considered, the WIPoFSD (Waves-in-Ice module and Power law Floe Size Distribution) model, assumes floe size follows a power law with a constant exponent. We introduce a parameterisation motivated by idealised models of in-plane brittle fracture to the prognostic model and demonstrate that the inclusion of this scheme enables the prognostic model to achieve a reasonable match against the novel observations for mid-sized floes (100 m–2 km). While neither FSD model results in a significant improvement in the ability of CICE to simulate pan-Arctic metrics in a stand-alone sea ice configuration, larger impacts can be seen over regional scales in sea ice concentration and thickness. We find that the prognostic model particularly enhances sea ice melt in the early melt season, whereas for the WIPoFSD model this melt increase occurs primarily during the late melt season. We then show that these differences between the two FSD models can be explained by considering the effective floe size, a metric used to characterise a given FSD. Finally, we discuss the advantages and disadvantages to these different approaches to modelling the FSD. We note that although the WIPoFSD model is unable to represent potentially important features of annual FSD evolution seen with the prognostic model, it is less computationally expensive and produces a better fit to novel FSD observations derived from 2 m resolution MEDEA imagery, possibly making this a stronger candidate for inclusion in climate models.
Douglas I. Benn, , Jan A. Åström, , , , , , Karen Alley, Erin Pettit, et al.
Published: 27 June 2022
The Cryosphere, Volume 16, pp 2545-2564;

Ice shelves play a key role in the dynamics of marine ice sheets by buttressing grounded ice and limiting rates of ice flux to the oceans. In response to recent climatic and oceanic change, ice shelves fringing the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) have begun to fragment and retreat, with major implications for ice-sheet stability. Here, we focus on the Thwaites Eastern Ice Shelf (TEIS), the remaining pinned floating extension of Thwaites Glacier. We show that TEIS has undergone a process of fragmentation in the last 5 years, including brittle failure along a major shear zone, formation of tensile cracks on the main body of the shelf, and a release of tabular bergs on both the eastern and western flanks. Simulations with the Helsinki Discrete Element Model (HiDEM) show that this pattern of failure is associated with high backstress from a submarine pinning point at the distal edge of the shelf. We show that a significant zone of shear, upstream of the main pinning point, developed in response to the rapid acceleration of the shelf between 2002 and 2006, seeding damage on the shelf. Subsequently, basal melting and positive feedback between damage and strain rates weakened TEIS, allowing damage to accumulate. Thus, although backstress on TEIS has likely diminished over time as the pinning point shrunk, accumulation of damage has ensured that the ice in the shear zone remained the weakest link in the system. Experiments with the BISICLES ice-sheet model indicate that additional damage to or unpinning of TEIS is unlikely to trigger significantly increased ice loss from WAIS, but the calving response to the loss of TEIS remains highly uncertain. It is widely recognised that ice-shelf fragmentation and collapse can be triggered by hydrofracturing and/or unpinning from ice-shelf margins or grounding points. Our results indicate a third mechanism, backstress triggered failure, that can occur if and when an ice shelf is no longer able to withstand stress imposed by pinning points. In most circumstances, pinning points are essential for ice-shelf stability, but as ice shelves thin and weaken, the concentration of backstress in damaged ice upstream of a pinning point may provide the seeds of their demise.
Agathe Serripierri, , Pierre Boue, Jérôme Weiss, Philippe Roux
Published: 27 June 2022
The Cryosphere, Volume 16, pp 2527-2543;

Due to global warming, the decline in the Arctic sea ice has been accelerating over the last 4 decades, with a rate that was not anticipated by climate models. To improve these models, there is the need to rely on comprehensive field data. Seismic methods are known for their potential to estimate sea-ice thickness and mechanical properties with very good accuracy. However, with the hostile environment and logistical difficulties imposed by the polar regions, seismic studies have remained rare. Due to the rapid technological and methodological progress of the last decade, there has been a recent reconsideration of such approaches. This paper introduces a methodological approach for passive monitoring of both sea-ice thickness and mechanical properties. To demonstrate this concept, we use data from a seismic experiment where an array of 247 geophones was deployed on sea ice in a fjord at Svalbard, between 1 and 24 March 2019. From the continuous recording of the ambient seismic field, the empirical Green function of the seismic waves guided in the ice layer was recovered via the so-called “noise correlation function”. Using specific array processing, the multi-modal dispersion curves of the ice layer were calculated from the noise correlation function, and then inverted for the thickness and elastic properties of the sea ice via Bayesian inference. The evolution of sea-ice properties was monitored for 24 d, and values are consistent with the literature, as well as with measurements made directly in the field.
, Livia Piermattei, Désirée Treichler, Lin Gilbert, , , Ludivine Libert, , ,
Published: 24 June 2022
The Cryosphere, Volume 16, pp 2505-2526;

In the Karakoram, dozens of glacier surges occurred in the past 2 decades, making the region a global hotspot. Detailed analyses of dense time series from optical and radar satellite images revealed a wide range of surge behaviour in this region: from slow advances longer than a decade at low flow velocities to short, pulse-like advances over 1 or 2 years with high velocities. In this study, we present an analysis of three currently surging glaciers in the central Karakoram: North and South Chongtar Glaciers and an unnamed glacier referred to as NN9. All three glaciers flow towards the same small region but differ strongly in surge behaviour. A full suite of satellites (e.g. Landsat, Sentinel-1 and 2, Planet, TerraSAR-X, ICESat-2) and digital elevation models (DEMs) from different sources (e.g. Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, SRTM; Satellite Pour l’Observation de la Terre, SPOT; High Mountain Asia DEM, HMA DEM) are used to (a) obtain comprehensive information about the evolution of the surges from 2000 to 2021 and (b) to compare and evaluate capabilities and limitations of the different satellite sensors for monitoring surges of relatively small glaciers in steep terrain. A strongly contrasting evolution of advance rates and flow velocities is found, though the elevation change pattern is more similar. For example, South Chongtar Glacier had short-lived advance rates above 10 km yr−1, velocities up to 30 m d−1, and surface elevations increasing by 170 m. In contrast, the neighbouring and 3-times-smaller North Chongtar Glacier had a slow and near-linear increase in advance rates (up to 500 m yr−1), flow velocities below 1 m d−1 and elevation increases up to 100 m. The even smaller glacier NN9 changed from a slow advance to a full surge within a year, reaching advance rates higher than 1 km yr−1. It seems that, despite a similar climatic setting, different surge mechanisms are at play, and a transition from one mechanism to another can occur during a single surge. The sensor inter-comparison revealed a high agreement across sensors for deriving flow velocities, but limitations are found on small and narrow glaciers in steep terrain, in particular for Sentinel-1. All investigated DEMs have the required accuracy to clearly show the volume changes during the surges, and elevations from ICESat-2 ATL03 data fit neatly to the other DEMs. We conclude that the available satellite data allow for a comprehensive observation of glacier surges from space when combining different sensors to determine the temporal evolution of length, elevation and velocity changes.
Sofia Hallerbäck, Laurie S. Huning, Charlotte Love, Magnus Persson, Katarina Stensen, David Gustafsson,
Published: 24 June 2022
The Cryosphere, Volume 16, pp 2493-2503;

Increasing air temperatures reduce the duration of ice cover on lakes and rivers, threatening to alter their water quality, ecology, biodiversity, and physical, economical and recreational function. Using a unique in situ record of freeze and break-up dates, including records dating back to the beginning of the 18th century, we analyze changes in ice duration (i.e., first freeze to last break-up), freeze and break-up patterns across Sweden. Results indicate a significant trend in shorter ice duration (62 %), later freeze (36 %) and earlier break-up (58 %) dates from 1913–2014. In the latter 3 decades (1985–2014), the mean observed ice durations have decreased by about 11 d in northern (above 60 N) and 28 d in southern Sweden relative to the earlier three decades. In the same period, the average freeze date occurred about 10 d later and break-up date about 17 d earlier in southern Sweden. The rate of change is roughly twice as large in southern Sweden as in the northern part. Sweden has experienced an increase in occurrence of years with an extremely short ice cover duration (i.e., less than 50 d), which occurred about 8 times more often in southern Sweden than previously observed. Our analysis indicates that even a 1 C increase in air temperatures in southern (northern) Sweden results in a mean decrease of ice duration of 22.5 (±7.6) d. Given that warming is expected to continue across Sweden during the 21st century, we expect increasingly significant impacts on ice cover duration and hence, ecology, water quality, transportation, and recreational activities in the region.
, Anna Bang Kvorning, Signe Hillerup Larsen, , , , , Niels Nørgaard-Pedersen, , Naja Mikkelsen, et al.
Published: 24 June 2022
The Cryosphere, Volume 16, pp 2471-2491;

Climate warming and the resulting acceleration of freshwater discharge from the Greenland Ice Sheet are impacting Arctic marine coastal ecosystems, with implications for their biological productivity. To accurately project the future of coastal ecosystems and place recent trends into perspective, palaeo-records are essential. Here, we show runoff estimates from the late 19th century to the present day for a large sub-Arctic fjord system (Nuup Kangerlua, southwest Greenland) influenced by both marine- and land-terminating glaciers. We followed a multiproxy approach to reconstruct spatial and temporal trends in primary production from four sediment core records, including diatom fluxes and assemblage composition changes and biogeochemical and sedimentological proxies (total organic carbon, nitrogen, C/N ratio, biogenic silica, δ13C, δ15N, and grain-size distribution). We show that an abrupt increase in freshwater runoff in the mid-1990s was reflected by a 3-fold increase in biogenic silica fluxes in the glacier-proximal area of the fjord. In addition to increased productivity, freshwater runoff modulates the diatom assemblages and drives the dynamics and magnitude of the diatom spring bloom. Our records indicate that marine productivity is higher today than it has been at any point since the late 19th century and suggest that increased mass loss of the Greenland Ice Sheet may continue promoting high productivity levels at sites proximal to marine-terminating glaciers. We highlight the importance of palaeo-records in offering a unique temporal perspective on ice–ocean–ecosystem responses to climate forcing beyond existing remote sensing or monitoring time series.
Published: 23 June 2022
The Cryosphere, Volume 16, pp 2421-2448;

Nearly all meltwater from glaciers and ice sheets is routed englacially through moulins. Therefore, the geometry and evolution of moulins has the potential to influence subglacial water pressure variations, ice motion, and the runoff hydrograph delivered to the ocean. We develop the Moulin Shape (MouSh) model, a time-evolving model of moulin geometry. MouSh models ice deformation around a moulin using both viscous and elastic rheologies and melting within the moulin through heat dissipation from turbulent water flow, both above and below the water line. We force MouSh with idealized and realistic surface melt inputs. Our results show that, under realistic surface melt inputs, variations in surface melt change the geometry of a moulin by approximately 10 % daily and over 100 % seasonally. These size variations cause observable differences in moulin water storage capacity and moulin water levels compared to a static, cylindrical moulin. Our results suggest that moulins are important storage reservoirs for meltwater, with storage capacity and water levels varying over multiple timescales. Implementing realistic moulin geometry within subglacial hydrologic models may therefore improve the representation of subglacial pressures, especially over seasonal periods or in regions where overburden pressures are high.
, , William A. P. Smith, Edwin R. Hancock, ,
Published: 23 June 2022
The Cryosphere, Volume 16, pp 2449-2470;

We present an approach for extracting quantifiable information from archival aerial photographs to extend the temporal record of change over a region of the central eastern Greenland Ice Sheet. The photographs we use were gathered in the 1930s as part of a surveying expedition, and so they were not acquired with photogrammetric analysis in mind. Nevertheless, we are able to make opportunistic use of this imagery, as well as additional, novel datasets, to explore changes at ice margins well before the advent of conventional satellite technology. The insights that a longer record of ice margin change bring is crucial for improving our understanding of how glaciers are responding to the changing climate. In addition, our work focuses on a series of relatively small and little studied outlet glaciers from the eastern margin of the ice sheet. We show that whilst air and sea surface temperatures are important controls on the rates at which these ice masses change, there is also significant heterogeneity in their responses, with non-climatic controls (such as the role of bathymetry in front of calving margins) being extremely important. In general, there is often a tendency to focus either on changes of the Greenland Ice Sheet as a whole, or on regional variations. Here, we suggest that even this approach masks important variability, and full understanding of the behaviour and response of the ice sheet requires us to consider changes that are taking place at the scale of individual glaciers.
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