Subglacial Water flow Under Ice Streams and West Antarctic Ice-Sheet Stability

J. Weertman, G. E. Birchfield
1982 Annals of Glaciology  
An analysis is made of the steady-state width of an ice sheet whose base is below sea-level, whose basal temperatures are such that appreciable melting occurs at the base, and which is fringed by fastmoving ice streams that drain most of the outward ice flux. The fast ice velocities of the ice streams are considered to be a consequence of substantial subglacial water flow underneath the ice streams. The source of this water is the water melted from the base of the ice sheet which is diverted to
more » ... hich is diverted to flow beneath the ice streams. If the depth of the sea at the edge of the ice sheet is not a function of the width of the ice sheet, then an ice sheet with a steady-state width is in a situation of unstable equilibrium. Only if the sea-level depth at the edge of the ice sheet increases as a function of ice-sheet width at a rate greater than the 2/3rd power of the width can a stable, steady-state ice sheet exist. This condition (taking into account elastic rebound) is not satisfied for the West Antarctic ice sheet along an ice-flow path from the ice divide above Byrd station out to the Ross Sea. An increase of the mean precipitation, such as might occur under a C02-induced climatic warming, would cause growth of both stable or unstable steady-state ice sheets.
doi:10.1017/s0260305500002998 fatcat:qqo5bg7px5gfrdn4rxfs6bn3pi