Variability in basal melting beneath Pine Island Ice Shelf on weekly to monthly timescales

Peter E.D. Davis*, Adrian Jenkins, Keith W. Nicholls, Paul V. Brennan, E. Povl Abrahamsen, Karen J. Heywood, Pierre Dutrieux, Kyoung Ho Cho, Tae Wan Kim

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


Ocean-driven basal melting of Amundsen Sea ice shelves has triggered acceleration, thinning, and grounding line retreat on many West Antarctic outlet glaciers. Here we present the first year-long (2014) record of basal melt rate at sub-weekly resolution from a location on the outer Pine Island Ice Shelf. Adjustment of the upper thermocline to local wind forced variability in the vertical Ekman velocity is the dominant control on basal melting at weekly to monthly timescales. Atmosphere-ice-ocean surface heat fluxes or changes in advection of modified Circumpolar Deep Water play no discernible role at these timescales. We propose that during other years, a deepening of the thermocline in Pine Island Bay driven by longer timescale processes may have suppressed the impact of local wind forcing on high-frequency upper thermocline height variability and basal melting. This highlights the complex interplay between the different processes and their timescales that set the basal melt rate beneath Pine Island Ice Shelf.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8655-8669
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number11
Early online date28 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


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