Rapid subglacial erosion beneath Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica

Andrew M. Smith, Charles R. Bentley, Robert George Bingham, Tom A. Jordan

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We present measurements of ice thickness, gravimetry and surface elevation on Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica, separated by a period of 49 years. At one station, on the main trunk of the glacier we measured a surface elevation lowering with no significant change in ice thickness. We interpret these as indicating subglacial erosion of 31.8 ± 13.4 m at this location, at a mean rate over the measurement period of 0.6 ± 0.3 m a-1, and suggest that a current erosion rate of ~1 m a-1 is possible. Our results emphasize that locally, basal processes can have a significant effect on ice sheet changes, particularly where fast-flowing ice has an easily erodible bed.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberL12501
Number of pages5
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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  • Stability of ice sheets

    Robert George Bingham (Coordinator), Julian B.T. Scott (Coordinator) & Douglas Watson Fraser Mair (Coordinator)


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