Modelling the influence of marine ice on the dynamics of an idealised ice shelf

Lisa Craw, Felicity S. McCormack, Sue Cook, Jason Roberts, Adam Treverrow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Understanding the dynamic behaviour of ice shelves, specifically the controls on their ability to buttress the flow of ice into the ocean, is critical for predicting future ice-sheet contributions to sea level rise. Many large ice shelves, which are predominantly composed of meteoric ice, have a basal layer of marine ice (formed from accumulated platelets at the ice-ocean interface), comprising up to 40% of their thickness locally. Differences in temperature, chemistry and microstructure between marine and meteoric ice mean the rheological properties of the ice vary throughout the ice shelf. These differences are not explicitly accounted for in ice-sheet modelling applications, and may have an important influence on ice shelf dynamics. We tested the sensitivity of a model of an idealised ice shelf to variations in temperature distribution and flow enhancement, and found that incorporating a realistic thermal profile (where the marine ice layer is isothermal) had an order of magnitude greater effect on ice mass flux and thinning than incorporating the mechanical properties of the marine ice. The presence of marine ice at the ice shelf base has the potential to significantly increase deviatoric stresses at the surface and ice mass flux across the front of an ice shelf.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-352
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number274
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2023


  • Ice dynamics
  • ice rheology
  • ice shelves

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