The effect of lateral stresses on the flow of ice shelves and their role in stabilizing marine ice sheets

4 December 2015

It has been conjectured that marine ice sheets (those that

flow into the ocean) are unconditionally unstable when the underlying

bed-slope runs uphill in the direction of flow, as is typical in many

regions underneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. This conjecture is

supported by theoretical studies that assume a two-dimensional flow

idealization. However, if the floating section (the ice shelf) is

subject to three-dimensional stresses from the edges of the embayments

into which they flow, as is typical of many ice shelves in Antarctica,

then the ice shelf creates a buttress that supports the ice sheet.

This allows the ice sheet to remain stable under conditions that may

otherwise result in collapse of the ice sheet. This talk presents new

theoretical and experimental results relating to the effects of

three-dimensional stresses on the flow and structure of ice shelves,

and their potential to stabilize marine ice sheets.

  • Mathematical Geoscience Seminar