Deep Bed in the Vicinity of the Grounding Line of Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica

Friday, 19 December 2014
Mathieu Morlighem1, Daniel N Goldberg2, Stephen L. Cornford3 and Eric J Rignot1, (1)University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA, United States, (2)University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom, (3)University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom
Pine Island glacier is one of the major ice streams of the Antarctic Ice Sheet and has been experiencing dramatic changes for the past four decades. Its grounding line has been retreating at a rate of 1 km/a since 1992. It has been suggested that this retreat would not stop and that the entire basin would unground because of the geometry of its bed. The bed topography indeed controls to a large extent the behavior of the grounding line because of its reverse shape, which makes Pine Island susceptible to the Marine Ice Sheet Instability.

Using three model-based approaches, we analyze the bed topography of Pine Island, and any potential errors inherent in its representation. While all three approaches are based on the conservation of mass and momentum, they differ both in terms of the glaciological flow model used, and their estimation methodology. Nevertheless, all three produce similar bed corrections that suggest that the bed is several hundreds of meters below the most recent bed compilation of Bedmap-2, and has a flatter shape. We attribute the inconsistency with Bedmap-2 to noise and ambiguity in radar echograms due to the presence of crevasses, as well as large cross-over errors and sparse flight-line data in this region. This new description of the bed topography of Pine Island Glacier has vast implications for the modeling of its evolution in the coming decades. Models of the glacier are likely to exhibit more subtle amplification of retreat rate, since the bed is less steep, but may also begin to retreat more readily, since the present day discharge is greater and the ice surface elevation closer to floatation. Our results also provide guidelines for future mission deployments.