Massive subsurface ice formed by refreezing of ice-shelf melt ponds

Bryn Hubbard, Adrian Luckman, David W. Ashmore, Suzanne Bevan, Bernd Kulessa, Peter Kuipers Munneke, Morgane Philippe, Daniela Jansen, Adam Booth, Heidi Sevestre, Jean-Louis Tison, Martin O’Leary, Ian Rutt

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Surface melt ponds form intermittently on several Antarctic ice shelves. Although implicated in ice-shelf break up, the consequences of such ponding for ice formation and ice-shelf structure have not been evaluated. Here we report the discovery of a massive subsurface ice layer, at least 16 km across, several kilometres long and tens of metres deep, located in an area of intense melting and intermittent ponding on Larsen C Ice Shelf, Antarctica. We combine borehole optical televiewer logging and radar measurements with remote sensing and firn modelling to investigate the layer, found to be ~10 °C warmer and ~170 kg m−3 denser than anticipated in the absence of ponding and hitherto used in models of ice-shelf fracture and flow. Surface ponding and ice layers such as the one we report are likely to form on a wider range of Antarctic ice shelves in response to climatic warming in forthcoming decades.
Original languageEnglish
Article number11897
Number of pages6
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2016


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