Detection and Analysis of Complex Patterns of Ice Dynamics in Antarctica from ICESat Laser Altimetry
Babonis, Gregory Scott
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There remains much uncertainty in estimating the amount of Antarctic ice mass change, its dynamic component, and its spatial and temporal patterns. This work remedies the limitations of previous studies by generating the first detailed reconstruction of total and dynamic ice thickness and mass changes across Antarctica, from ICESat satellite altimetry observations in 2003-2009 using the Surface Elevation Reconstruction and Change Detection (SERAC) method. Ice sheet thickness changes are calculated with quantified error estimates for each time when ICESat flew over a ground-track crossover region, at approximately 110,000 locations across the Antarctic Ice Sheet. The time series are partitioned into changes due to surficial processes and ice dynamics. The new results markedly improve the spatial and temporal resolution of surface elevation, volume, and mass change rates for the AIS, and can be sampled at annual temporal resolutions. The results indicate a complex spatiotemporal pattern of dynamic mass loss in Antarctica, especially along individual outlet glaciers, and allow for the quantification of the annual contribution of Antarctic ice loss to sea level rise. Over 5000 individual locations exhibit either strong dynamic ice thickness change patterns, accounting for approximately 500 unique spatial clusters that identify regions likely influenced by subglacial hydrology. The spatial distribution and temporal behavior of these regions reveal the complexity and short-time scale variability in the subglacial hydrological system. From the 500 unique spatial clusters, over 370 represent newly identified, and not previously published, potential subglacial water bodies indicating an active subglacial hydrological system over a much larger region than previously observed. These numerous new observations of dynamic changes provide more than simply a larger set of data. Examination of both regional and local scale dynamic change patterns across Antarctica shows newly discovered connections between the geology and ice sheet dynamics of Antarctica, particularly along the boundary between East and West Antarctica in the Pagano Shear Zone. Additionally, increased dynamic activity is shown to concentrate in regions of Antarctica most likely to experience catastrophic failure and collapse in the future. Further quantification of mass and volume changes demonstrates that the methods described within allow for a true reconciliation between different satellite methods of measuring ice sheet mass and volume balance, and show that Antarctica is losing enough mass between 2003 and 2009 to raise global sea levels 0.1 mm/yr during that time. Additionally, analysis of local patterns of dynamic ice thickness changes shows that there is continued or increased ice loss, since before the ICESat mission period, in many of the coastal sectors of Antarctica.