New Insights in Ice Shelf Breakup Mechanisms

Recent Retreat of Wilkins Ice Shelf Reveals New Insights in Ice Shelf Breakup Mechanisms
M. Braun, A. Humbert

ABSTRACT: The disintegration of various ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula has demonstrated their vulnerability and impacts on tributary glaciers. "A satellite image of Wilkins Ice Shelf from July of 2007 reveals the formation of a large new double fracture, accompanied by numerous small fractures. We show that bending stresses induced by buoyancy forces were responsible for fracture formation." On February 28-29, 2008, an area ...broke up at a narrow connection of the Wilkins Ice Shelf to one of its confining islands. In contrast to Larsen B Ice Shelf, melt ponds that drain into crevasses played no role in this breakup process. A further breakup the same area occurred on May 30-31, 2008 and documented that breakup can occur during austral winter. Radar images reveal a frozen surface, which demonstrates that in this breakup, surface melt water did not play a role.
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